Thanking People Properly

“Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure, the laws depend.”— Edmund Burke, First Letter on a Regicide Peace

As our gift-giving frenzy winds down, a task befalls us as recipients: we are called upon to write thank you notes. Though this previously integral piece of etiquette is increasingly overlooked, writing thank you notes is good for the soul.

  1. Thank you notes help you work on your follow-through skills. Thinking about how you should write a thank you note ≠ putting one in the mail. If you don’t have stationery, you have make a trip to get some. If you’re not in the habit of writing letters, you’ll also have to buy some stamps. You will be startled by the price and start talking yourself out of buying them. Then you have to sit down and write one. Lastly, you have to go find your mail drop, which you may have never used before. At each point, your follow-through may fail.
  2. Thank you notes force you to confront the embarrassment that is your penmanship. This is the Achilles’ heel of my thank you note writing. I’m decent and getting them out on time, have decent stationary, and know how to keep it short and sweet. But, sometimes, I wonder if I’m just causing vision loss among my recipients as they struggle to read my cursive-print hybrid script.

  3. Thank you notes require a sense of maturity. They require brevity, pith, and structure. Since most of us have an over-practiced knack for writing “personal reflections” and an underdeveloped ability to write in deft declaratives, writing a thank you note that finds creative ways to say “thank you” and communicates in a few phrases the meaning and future of the gift will require a bit of planning. Since one is using proper stationery, it cannot be corrected once written. Thank you notes also require maturity because there is no payoff for the author of the letter when it is received. There’s no reason to expect you will be notified when the receipient receives your letter. Thank you notes are for those playing the long game in relationships, doing something kind just to make the other person quietly happy.

I suggest you take advantage of the opportunity to build character in the simple activity of thanking your loved ones in writing. If nothing else, at least your handwriting will improve.