Saying Thank You: Small Gesture, Big Impact

Thank youSaying “thank you” can be as subtle as a pat on the back or as bold as a parade, but I will go out on a limb here and say, no matter how you do it, it will never, ever go out of style.

Thank you cards and notes may seem quaint in this era of terse text messages and furtive emails, but there really is still nothing like getting that handwritten appreciation via the mail, left on your desk or tucked discreetly into your jacket pocket by your loved one.

Advice on how to write thank you notes is all over the web, so I’m thinking many folks are like me and want very much to continue the tradition.

When should you send a thank you note?

Receiving a gift is one situation where a thank you note is a given. Like many people, my first experience with writing a thank you note was writing to my grandma after Christmas. At the time it was a chore, but as a grandma now I get why it was so important.

Getting a gift is not the only opportunity to let someone know his or her kindness was appreciated. Thank you notes can be sent when:

  • someone does something especially nice and thoughtful for you
  • someone helps you out of a jam — jumps your car battery, walks your dog when you’re sick, steps in on a project with some new ideas
  • hosts you at their home either for an occasion or as an overnight guest

Timing your thank you note

Thank youThank you notes are wonderful when sent within days of receipt, but for a lot of us this isn’t always feasible. Bottom line on this is it’s better to send a thank you than not…even if that means it’s very late.

Small gestures and kindnesses should be acknowledged quickly, in proportion to the situation. A rule of thumb is to try to do that within a week or two maximum. For me, I often get waylaid and it is one instance where calling the person or sending an email is better than letting it go for a month of more.

For holiday or birthday gifts, try to get them out at least within a month of the occasion.

For the big life occasions — weddings, births, funerals and the associated showers — it is perfectly acceptable to take many months if not a full year to acknowledge a gift. Givers know theirs is not the only gift and that you are busy with your new baby or may need time after the loss of a loved one.

Thank you note tips

  • Be personal. A good thank you note is very personal. Don’t just say “thanks” and sign your name. Address the gift giver by name. People want to know the thank you is for them, not just part of a stack of generic thank you cards.
  • Mention the gift or action specifically (unless it is cash). Examples: “Thank you for the lovely blue ski sweater” “Thanks for hosting such a fun New Year’s party.”
  • For cash, it’s just more courteous to say what the cash means to you. Examples: “Thank you for your kind and generous gift.” “With your help, I will be able to start school well-prepared. Thank you so much!”
  • Include at least one other personal comment. It could be something about the gift or action or something about your relationship. Examples: “The sweater is a perfect fit and so pretty.” “I can’t wait to see you again this summer!”
  • Avoid extraneous news. Send a separate letter to “catch up” with the person or enclose it with the notecard, but let the thank you itself stand alone.
  • Customize your message. Preprinted thank you cards are okay, but a pretty or funny blank notecard allows you customize the message (and they can be used for a variety of situations). Postcards also are acceptable for a quick thanks.
  • Hand write or hand print your note. Even if your handwriting isn’t great, it will be very appreciated. This is a very human interaction, and writing makes this more apparent.
  • Be natural, not formal unless it is a business acquaintance. For family and friends “your hospitality is appreciated” is all wrong (unless that’s the way you always talk).
  • Be yourself, be genuine…let them know it comes from your heart.

What if you hate the gift?

Never lie about a gift you really don’t like or won’t use. Avoid commitments such as “I will hang this lovely picture in my front hall” unless you want to scramble to hang it every time grandma is due to pay a visit.

Try to find one feature of the gift that you like: “I can tell it was lovingly crafted.” “It’s a pretty shade of blue.” “It will remind me of how much fun I had on our trip.”

Focus on the giving part, if you can’t find anything nice to say about the gift: “Thank you for the hat and gloves. It was so kind of you to remember my birthday.”

If a clothing gift doesn’t fit you, it’s okay to let the giver know. They can usually exchange it for the right size OR they can give you the receipt so you can exchange it. If you don’t like the color or style of item, this might be a good time to get the right size and perhaps a more suitable color.

Duplicate gifts can be hard. If you receive more than one at the same time, it’s okay to just say you received two (because the givers knew “how much I wanted it” or “how well it suited me”) and ask for the receipt to exchange one. Otherwise, you could quietly donate one or carefully regift it. After all, the giver doesn’t need to know which of the two you are not keeping.

Just grin and bear it. Remember, it’s the thought that counts. Put the item away, and at some point in the future you can donate it or even regift if you are careful to keep it out of the same circle of friends or family.

Thank you

While we’re on the subject, thanks to our readers who have shared their thoughts, opinions and ideas this year. We look forward to a simple and fun year ahead!

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