The Art and Benefits of the Thank-you Note

Who doesn’t love receiving a thank-you note? But writing and sending them, that is a different experience. For some reason, most of us have a mental block when it comes to sending out those heartfelt missives. But perhaps we need to adjust our mindset because penning a thank-you note is not just great for lifting someone’s spirits, they are also great for lifting our own.

According to Psychology Today, thank-you notes can elevate our relationships: Strengthening a friendship’s already-close bond or turning an acquaintance into a friend. Putting pen to paper can even benefit your self-esteem, as well as your physical and psychological health.

But before we feel good about sending greetings of gratitude, we need to actually write down our thoughts on paper. And, here’s more good news: It’s not as complicated as you think.

A thank-you note “should recapture that smile and handshake or hug you would give the giver in person, and offer it in a form that can be read and reread,” according to Margaret Shepherd, author of The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication. And while Shepherd concedes there are many ways to say thank you on paper, she suggests the best kind of thank-you note has five key characteristics. They are generous, specific, prompt, succinct and personal.

Here’s an example of a thank-you note for a gift:

Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for the comfy sweater. How did you know blue is my favorite color? I look forward to wearing it for years to come. Your thoughtful gift means so much to me.

Warmly, John

And there are many gifts to send thank-you notes for. There are birthday, baby and bridal showers, wedding and holiday gifts. But thank you notes are for so much more than just receiving a gift. According to Shepherd, “Handwritten notes are not only for the kind of gifts that come wrapped in a box. You should be alert to the many occasions when you can thank people who give you their time, their thoughts, their patience, their information, their connections, and their hospitality. These generous acts may surround an annual event of milestone, or occur throughout your life.”

So here are a few more circumstances where thank-you notes are not just appropriate, but encouraged:

Professional/job interview:

Dear Mr. Doe,

Thank you for taking the time on Thursday to meet with me regarding the opening for a product manager. I know you are busy, and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. I enjoyed learning more about the position. I am including a list of personal and professional references and am happy to answer any questions you might have regarding my experience. Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Jane Smith

Professional/job reference:

Dear Ms. Jones,

Thank you so much for providing a reference for me to ABC Inc. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to speak with them on my behalf. Your support in my job search means a great deal, and I am truly grateful to count you as a reference.

Sincerely, Jane Smith

Gift of support:

Dear John,

I just want to thank you for your friendship and support over the past few months. Your kind words and deeds constantly remind me how lucky I am to have you in my life. I could not have gotten through these months without you.

I am so very thankful for your friendship.

Love, Jane

Gift of time:

Dear Jane,

It was great fun to see you at lunch yesterday. I know how crazy life can get, and I am always grateful to spend some of that time with you. Have a wonderful week ahead, and let’s not let too much time go by before we make another lunch date.

Love, Jill