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I was raised by a mother who made me and my four siblings keep a running log of gifts we received at Christmas. We had to write down who it was from and a description. Before playing with our new treasures, we then had to write individual, hand-written thank you notes to every person who gave us a gift. As we aged we were expected to do the same for every birthday, graduation, wedding, and anniversary, as well as anytime someone put themselves out there for us — went above and beyond, or did something nice out of the goodness of their heart.
This training has stuck with me and I still practice it to this day. My methods and process have evolved and adapted for the times. Sometimes my notes are handwritten and other times they are emails, texts, direct messages, or even a thumbs up or smiley face. But the point is, there is ALWAYS a thank you.
Giving thanks is easy. Ideally, it is also automatic. Everyone is busy — but we are not too busy to take a few minutes to show appreciation to those who give us their time, treasure, or talent.
I have two places I keep thank you notes I receive — 1) All hard copy, hand-written thank you notes are saved and preserved. They are added to a “wall of thanks” I created in my office. 2) When I first started teaching, I created an email folder called KUDOS. Every time I get an emailed thank you note, I save it in this folder. Over the past years, I have collected dozens of these pieces of appreciation. I treasure them because life can be very challenging. It is easy to succumb to sadness and fear or feelings of doubt. Having a wall of thanks or notes to remind yourself that you matter can make a huge difference in the desire to stay on track and keep going. So as a person who values receiving these notes of gratitude, I am committed to paying it forward.
For most of us, when we are physically with someone who gives us a gift, compliment, or does something nice — we say “thank you” on autopilot. That is terrific and we should keep doing that. So for those times when you are not in the same room as someone who has done something nice — you can always go with the face-to-face option. A quick pop-in to their office, a high five or hand-shake (adjust for #Covid19 as needed) when you see them next or go above and beyond with an invite to coffee or lunch as a gesture of appreciation. Phone calls/messages or video chat work well too!
I am personally a fan of the hand-written thank you note but recognize this might challenging for many. There is often a desire to be profound in the note. This is not necessary. A simple thank you for what you have done for me on a simple, even blank, notecard will suffice. I have a 1973 Royal typewriter so I love to write notes on it and give my thank-you’s a bit of flair and personality. I will also note here that although very nice, it is not necessary to include gift cards or other presents with your thank-yous. You taking the time and energy to send a note is more than enough.
Thank you emails are not lazy. They, too, are appreciated. Try to give a bit more than “thank you” for the note if the person you are writing to went above and beyond. Add a sentence about how their act made a difference or helped you accomplish something. Providing context and meaning to your thank you shows the giver that you are paying attention and acknowledging their effort.
Direct messages might be the most convenient given time or urgency. If connected socially, you can send a direct message through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Here you can add some personality and fun with emoji’s, bitmoji’s, gifs and memes. If it is appropriate to be more public with your thank you — you can add value by sending a tagged shout-out via social media so others can share in your gratitude and appreciation for others in your network.
If all else fails and you are out of time and energy — sending a text is also nice and at a minimum, shows you acknowledge and appreciate the giver’s effort. This is most appropriate with friends, family, and close colleagues — individuals you have already an established connection.
One thing I hear a lot from family when they send a gift to one of my kids is “did they get it?” That tells me that the child did not send a thank you. Family members are inherently understanding. Not saying thank-you is not an unforgivable act. But if it’s not already in your auto-pilot, please consider adapting to a new auto-response of sending a quick text or direct message to the person who gave you a gift or did something nice. You would be surprised at the difference it makes for those who love and care about you.
These may be simple and obvious to some but many people neglect, forget, or don’t even consider taking these steps. Never underestimate the power of saying thank you. If you are not already in the practice of showing gratitude regularly because it feels awkward or time-consuming, I challenge you to start now. Consider it a stepping stone on your professional pathways journey. It is an easy way to make an impact, practice empathy, and demonstrate that you are the kind of person that will add value to an organization.
This article is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways — Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.
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