Thursday, October 7, 2010

Say Thank-You, Often

A couple years have come and gone since my first column on etiquette was published. I am very grateful for all the positive feedback I’ve received as well as ideas for additional columns. So I am taking this opportunity to say thank-you and to discuss the whole etiquette behind saying thank-you. The very first thank-you notes I wrote were for Christmas presents. My mother, sister and I would sit down the day after Christmas with our boxes of note cards and lists of gifts and who had given them to us. Everyone who had given us a gift received a hand written thank-you note. This at first seemed like a daunting task for an eight year old, but as the years rolled by it became a routine which we looked forward to. Learning to compose a note that had some personality was the challenge. Penmanship was also important. Cards with mistakes had to be discarded and begun anew. In this day and age where actual hand writing has unfortunately taken a backseat to the computer, penmanship is atrocious. Teachers take note! Even students in high school can barely write their names in a legible way. Nonetheless, I have received numerous heartfelt notes from students which meant a great deal to me. And because they were so personal, I know the gratitude that the students felt was sincere.

There are many times when writing a note of thanks is important. There also is a certain feeling of warmth that one gets from writing them. You should send a thank-you note when you are given a gift, sent flowers, asked to lunch or dinner, invited for a weekend, asked to a concert or performance of some kind or when someone does something nice or helpful in a business or social situation such as an introduction or letter of reference. I write far too few thank-you notes. However, I do make a point of phoning whenever I am invited to dinner. People appreciate knowing that the effort that went into cooking dinner and the camaraderie of the time spent together with friends was genuinely enjoyed.

There is an excellent book which was recently published by a colleague of mine entitled 101 Ways to Say Thank You. In it Kelly Browne gives excellent examples of what to actually say in such notes. It has great tips on buying stationary, superlative words to use in a note and many helpful suggestions.

Imagine the delight in receiving a thank-you note. I find that it strengthens friendships and relationships, especially in business situations which are just budding. Whenever someone extends themselves to celebrate a happy occasion, lend a helping hand, make an introduction for you or acknowledge a difficult time you may be experiencing, take the time to write a note. It takes only a few minutes. In some cases notes with “Thank-you” can be purchased at a stationary store or in the case of St. Andrews, at some of the local gift shops. Some of the highest quality stationary is sold by Crane & Company in the US. They have an excellent website and have a wide variety of cards and stationary which can be personally engraved if required. You can buy note cards at the Dollar Store as well, so there’s not a lot of expense required to accomplish this mission.

In business situations, thank-you notes can be sent via email. It is a matter of discretion however and a hand written or typed note may serve your purposes better. Whatever you decide, be sure that the note is sincere and includes a reference to the purpose of your meeting. If you are sending a note to an interviewer from whom you want a job, be sure not to send a gift. In most companies as well as in government, there are policies against accepting gifts.

In the case of weddings and the tremendous joy and love and support you receive from friends and family, thank-you notes are essential and absolutely must be hand written. And there is no reason why the bride needs to be the sole writer. The groom should share in that responsibility. Be sure that as you open your presents at showers that someone records the gift and the sender. For wedding presents which arrive in the post, one trick which comes in handy is to cut off the return address from the package and attach it to the gift or gift card. Again be sure you have a list and as each thank-you note is written, check it off the list.

The most important thing to remember is to say thank-you often. There are so many more occasions to verbally express your gratitude to another person than there will be reasons for a hand written note. Use the phone if you want to. Speak directly to the person to whom you are grateful. I know of no one who says thank-you too often. Say it with a smile on your face and make direct eye contact. This will go a long way to show the respect you have for others and for yourself.