The other days a friend messaged me: “You are remarkably good at ‘gratitude.'”
I felt humbled. Maybe I am good at gratitude.
Or maybe I’m just better at taking the time to tell people, “I appreciate who you are, I appreciate what you have done, I appreciate how you have touched me.”
I believe lots of people are thankful and grateful… But sometimes it’s easier to natter on about the challenges, the things that go sideways, the things that you want to change rather than taking a moment to be thank-ful.
I prefer to tell the person face to face over a coffee or lunch or a drink after work.
But usually it is more timely (and easier if they don’t live in Vancouver or Seattle) to grab a card and start writing. He or she may be someone who has been a thoughtful friend or a person who has inspired or touched me.
Writing letters and notes has been a big part of my life… perhaps since passing notes in class, or when I lived in England after high school and wrote letters every day to a States-side boyfriend. Birthday and anniversary cards are “must” remembrances on my mother’s side of the family. And love notes via post to my husband and daughter are common. (When my daughter, Lorraine, was younger and away with her father, I would send notes in packages decorated with fanciful drawings of animals.)
Most people I know are delighted to get something in the mail – something that is not a bill or flyer or junk mail.
As a fundraiser, notes are not just nice, but a must after meeting with a donor or prospect (or an interview). I enjoy handwriting thank you notes but it is always better to find out what will resonate with the donor when you are thanking professionally.
If you are a fundraiser, always write your “thank you for meeting with me” notes right after the meeting – whether by post or email. You can even set out the card on your desk so it is ready and remembered when you return to the office. (Then summarize your meeting in a narrative format for the files!)
My suggestions to help you put your appreciation into words:
Have cards or stationary on hand – You can purchase a box of cards at a local store that say “Thank You” or are blank. I believe that part of the experience is visual and part is tactile, so I enjoy stationary or cards that have some heft or texture.
Handwriting the note shows you have taken thought and time – Time can feel like a luxury in our culture where “I’m so busy” is a badge of importance. (Favorite quote from that Op-Ed piece by Tim Kreider: “I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.”)
Be authentic – You don’t need to exaggerate your thoughts or praise or gratitude. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Thanking for the small things can be more charming than for the huge things.
Do it now – There truly is no time like the present. Maybe there was a time in the past where some assistance or a kind word or post made a difference – it isn’t too late to acknowledge that. Life is short, connections can end. Reach out. Many of my thank yous have been to people I “met” via twitter or blogs! Crossing communication platforms is outlandish and good.
At gift giving times (like Christmas for my family) thank you notes are written within 48 hours – I make a list while gifts are being opened and bring thank you cards to which ever family member we are visiting. And each of us writes a card for each gift (no double-up on one card) since I think it is very nice to write a note of thanks individually and with some length.
Don’t know where to start? – How about a grandparent, aunt or uncle, best friend co-worker or mentor.
If you are obsessive about finding the right card – like I am – you end up having an “appreciation bag” (because the box wasn’t big enough anymore and you can’t carry around a drawer).
Want to hear what others have to say? Check out this advice from:
- Paul Nazareth – Post: “In a digital world, sending cards is SO rare, even the Harvard Business Review agrees!”
- Harvard Business Review – Post: “… studies show that those who express gratitude also benefit by experiencing better health and sleep, less anxiety, and more life satisfaction. They benefit giver and receiver alike.”
- Shanon Doolittle – Post: “…a magic drawer stocked with cards for every occasion. And every good fundraiser should have one.”
- Adulting – Post: “Someone takes you out to dinner? Thank-you note. Takes the time to interview you for a job? Thank-you note. Present? You know that’s a thank-you note…”
- Sasha Dicter – Post: “There’s a chance, in each passing interaction with someone, to say ‘thank you.'”