Picture this: It’s holiday time. My family sits in a circle, each of us with a pile of presents. While we take turns opening them, we don’t have to open each one carefully or fold our paper to reuse later. What we each have, however, is a pen and a notecard. After each gift is opened and properly admired, the name of the giver and the gift is jotted on the card. This meticulous list comes to life later in handwritten thank you cards.
My mother insisted on this practice. When someone does something for you, provides a great service, or is simply spontaneously generous, it is not just courteous, but required in etiquette to send a card of thanks. I’ve tried to imbed this practice into my life (although I’m not nearly as good as my youngest brother in following through all the time). Thank you cards are a place where the thought doesn’t count. Thinking about sending one and actually sending one is a world of difference.
In this day and age when we are so tied to social and it is easy to shoot a one line email after a dinner or event, it means even more to take the time to handwrite a note. The impact on someone of receiving a card in the mail is exponential to in person words of thanks or a digital message. Sending a card not only shows you took extra time to care for the recipient, but you are also displaying gratitude for that person and are providing room to keep the lines of communication open between you.
I’ve gotten back into this practice in the past few years, although I’m still not as regular in penning notes as I’d like to be. In particular, I carry a pack of cards (and stamps!) in my work bag. If I have a job interview or a meeting with a prospective client, I make sure to pen a thank you and drop it in the nearest post box that day. Having supplies ready prevents me from putting it off. Even if I am not selected for these positions, I am able to leave a positive impression on those I have met. Who knows what other opportunities may come up in the future for which I am remembered because of this simple act?
Here are a few tips on thank you etiquette:
- Send thank yous for the little things. I mean, why not? Did a friend take you to dinner? Did your neighbor watch your cats while you were gone? Show your appreciation and go just a little bit further by writing a card.
- Keep your message to the point. The thank you is the highlight of your card, so keep it that way. If you have more to say, send a separate card or an email later.
- Be yourself. Let your personality shine through in your writing style. There’s no reason to be stiff, even though thank you cards can be considered “formal.”
- It’s never too late. With the exception of interviews, which are a bit more time constrained, you can always take time to send a note for a gift you received a few months ago or something nice someone did for you. If it’s still on your mind, take the time to say thank you