Saturday, December 28, 2019

To My Girls - Part 3

It's time to discuss gratitude and thank you notes! As you move into world of adulthood, these two things will serve you well.

Did you know December 26th, in addition to Boxing Day, was National Thank You Note Day? Did you miss it? No worries - thank you notes can be sent other days.  (National Handwriting Day is January 23rd, for example.)

First, my girls, remember that grateful hearts see beauty others miss - and receive more opportunities. You really are among the lucky. (Most Americans are.) When you spend time being grateful for what you have, you may just realize how very much you truly do have. There is a reason that gratitude is part of my monthly musings. Some days, when my head isn't in a grateful place, I'll write down 3 things I'm grateful for that day. Gratitude is a beautiful trait.

Second, my girls, a well-meant "thank you" note is a treasure. Tangible evidence of you and your gratitude. A slice of a moment in time to be treasured. A well-written thank you note is actually a gift back to the receiver of your appreciation. Thank you notes are beautiful expressions of appreciation (which is all manners really are).

When is appropriate to send a thank you note? (Almost always!)

  • After attending a dinner or event at someone's home. (They went to effort to host you. It is appropriate to acknowledge it.) 
  • After receiving a gift - be it: birthday, holiday, or special occasion like a a graduation open house or a wedding. (Again, the giver spent time selecting the gift as well as hard-earned money/time on the gift. It is appropriate to acknowledge it.)
  • If someone does you a kindness. (Examples: they help you plant a garden or help you move or watch your dog without payment or write you a recommendation letter.)
  • Sometimes I send them just because. (I could not agree more with this Southern Living article on why write thank you notes.

What is in a thank you note? Five simple elements:
  1. Their name
  2. That you appreciate the effort, sentiment or thought (or care or time)
  3. What you like (even if it is just that they thought of you)
  4. The words "thank you"
  5. Your signature
Thank you notes are best hand-written. Preferably written on nice stationery and mailed. They can be emailed. Text, while sub-optimal, is better than not acknowledging the gift but certainly not memorable.

Hand-written thank you notes do not have to be lengthy tomes. They can be very brief. I've written them in as little as 3 minutes. (And as long as an hour with multiple drafts for a business one.) The hardest part can be finding the address! (I tend to solve that by just writing the name on the envelope and then looking up the addresses later after I several notes written. Alternatively, sometimes I pre-write the addresses per day and then do a bunch of notes on a specific day.)

And for those thinking, but.....I don't have an address, stamps, paper. Etc. STOP. Stamps can be bought at any post office or grocery store customer service counter - or even online! Any paper will do in a pinch. And if they sent it to you, you have their address. (Pro tip - when people mail you things, add their address to your phone contact for them.) You can also look up their address on the on-line white pages. You can always find an excuse. Be better at finding a reason to show people they matter to you.

What is NOT appropriate for thank you notes? 

  • Generic "thanks for coming" pre-printed cards. Especially when combined with a holiday greeting like an etiquette two-for-one sale! It is simply not done! (Oh, I've seen it done, and recently. It wasn't pretty. Especially since the wedding was more than 6 months from Christmas!) It's the thank you equivalent of a mass mailing. That is most certainly not a treasure and shows zero appreciation on your part. To prove you were not raised by wolves, a hand-written "thank you" and hand-writing their name in greeting would lend a personal touch to an impersonal act.
  • A picture. Unless you are under age 5 in which case a picture, especially hand-drawn or of you using the gift, is perfect. (Side note, one of the aunts once gave us all framed pictures of herself for Christmas. Height of narcissism. I do believe my mother still wrote her a thank you note.) And if that is done, as I've recently received, the bare minimum one can do is personalize with a small handwritten note, especially for family, on what you liked or appreciated about their pictured gift.
  • Texts are borderline. Not preferable as they have no longevity and display next to no effort on your part, but they are better than nothing.
  • Mentioning specific amounts of money received. (Or gift card amounts.) It's best to just thank them for their generosity.
For more specific guidance, Southern Living has a great Dos and Don'ts article on thank you notes - because Southerners have elevated thank you notes to an art form. (They even have a video option on that.) Whole books have been written on the art of thank you notes! (Some of you girls may remember I own several.) One of my cousins writes the most beautiful notes - letterpress handwriting and the perfect sentiment, every time - I aspire to be as good at them as she is! 

Here's a real life example of thank you notes for wedding gifts. If you had 100 guests, post honeymoon, sending 1 thank you note a day would get it all done in about 3 months. Two a day and you are done in less than 2 months! Contrary to old etiquette rules, you do NOT have a year after the wedding to send thank you notes. After the honeymoon, get rolling on those thank you notes. It will make you grateful for everything you received and what a beautiful way to start a shared life! (Plus, the sooner things like that get done, in my world, the less guilt/undone work I'm spending energy on in my head. But that may just be me.)

I know several of my girls have rolled their eyes while reading this and are thinking I'm old fashioned and thank you notes are ridiculous. Wrong. Thank you notes are timeless. Thank you notes are about more than "manners". They are part of the intricate fabric of social kindnesses that make bonds of friendship tighter. In this digital age, given how many envelopes one receives that are bills - what a joy to open a nice note from someone you love! Wouldn't you like to bring joy to someone? Especially someone who did you a kindness or gave you a gift? Aren't they worth 3 minutes and $0.50?

Whether or not you get those thank you notes out -  please remember 3 things, my darlings: I believe in you. I love you. And, I am proud of you. Always. (But a little prouder when you send thank you notes to people and they mention it to me.)

PS. Thank you notes also make a difference in business. They may be why you get the job or keep the client. Here are two resources:
- Templates for post-interview thank you notes
- The business impacts of thank you notes

Pictures are my own + Unsplash (first image)

Other posts you might enjoy:
To My Girls - Part 2 (Keeping House)
To My Girls - Part 1 (Self-Care)

Hey! If you are enjoying these pieces to my girls, you might like one of the digital books I wrote, Taking Back Control of Your Life

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