The Lost Art of the Thank You

It was ingrained in me at a young age by my parents to always write a thank you note.  When you fail to do so, they’d preach, it insults the gift-giver and almost assures you won’t receive another from that person.

I now preach that same lesson to my kids.  Two weeks ago, my youngest came home from school with an Easter-themed bag of treats from one of her teachers.  Over the holiday weekend we had her write a thank you note to her teacher.  Her teacher was very appreciative of the note and said something that shocked me.  She claimed that in all her years of teaching, she could count on one hand the number of times a student had written her a thank you note, and my daughter had written two of those.

As communication methods have become more numerous and perhaps more casual, has that changed what many would still consider good manners?  Has this changed business manners too?

When was the last professional thank you note you wrote and what was it for?  My guess is that most readers can’t remember and the other group of readers will claim it was while job searching following an interview or a meeting.  Am I right?

If you think back on the past year, there have probably been many occasions where a quick note of thanks could have been sent but wasn’t.  Think about how you feel when you receive a thank you note that’s been customized enough where you get a true sense of the gratitude.  You’re more likely to want to repeat the experience again in the future.  The goal of most businesses, regardless of industry, is to get repeat business in addition to new business.  Doesn’t it seem obvious then that a thank you note can be a powerful business tool?

So my challenge to you is to write a business-related thank you note to a client, customer or vendor this week.  Like fertilizer in a Spring garden, see how your business relationship blossoms as a result of a little personalization and display of gratitude.  Let me know how it goes!

40 thoughts on “The Lost Art of the Thank You

  1. Arthur
    I liked your post this week. A written thank you note is an easy low investment activity that can be practiced even outside the sales organization. I have a box of company note cards available to anyone interested in sending a written correspondence to a customer, prospect or vendor. Granted, my customers are in the hospitality industry but we should be taking time beyond the obvious situations to break through the electronic clutter with a little old fashion handwriting. I know it is easier said than done, I have had two notes at my desk to write to customers, your post has pushed this up on my list of priorities for the day!

  2. We recently had culture training at my workplace. As a part of the training we were all given a Thank You card we were to write to a co-worker during the training. I think we don’t give enough thanks to people who support us at work. I took pleasure in writing that card and giving it to someone who deserved my thanks.

  3. Arthur, Your daughter’s teacher’s experience is now commonplace, not the norm — I too, was brought up to say “please” and “thank you” and I still enjoy doing it. Except now it clearly surprises some! I especially enjoy my early morning walks as I pass by commuters rushing to the train or fellow early-morning exercisers lost in their iPods: I like to smile and say “good morning,” and lots of times I get genuinely warm smiles back — little connections, but show that we recognize each other and we’re more than ships passing in the night (or Nikes hitting the early morning pavement). Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a big difference. And, yes, I too write notes!

    • Thank you for commenting Amy! I think people do tend to hide behind their screens, whether a computer monitor or iPod. It’s sad that the human connection is eroding. But those who still embrace it will likely be rewarded.

  4. This year I started working in a brand new job in the School District. I had worked for years in a Senior High School, where the job is job specific, and found myself posted into an Elementary School where the words, “starting all over” gave new meaning. I had help from the ladies down at the School Board Office, both in the Accounting, Purchasing and Data Systems all working with me sharing information that was helpful in my being successful. Shooting off an email to them just wasn’t going to show them just how much their thoughtfulness had meant to me so I sent them personalized cards. I told them how much I valued their friendly encouragement, and appreciated their taking time to help me. The cards are still on their desks. Had I sent an email, it may never have been opened and read.

      • Four years ago I joined a company who teaches people “how to act on their promptings” by sending a heartfelt card a day. I am a Distributor for this company, but even if I didn’t earn a penny, I could no longer imagine my life without this ‘happiness fix’ I get every time I send a card. I can share oodles of stories of people who right out of the blue have receive a card from someone they have not heard from in a long time, someone who took the time to send them a card letting them know how much they had meant to them. Expressing gratitude changes how you feel, and can shine a light on to someone’s darkness.

  5. This is an outstanding post, Arthur. Thank you for writing it. It seems that I need to be reminded from time to time to write a simple thank you note. It is true that I enjoy receiving them, and I would like to make others feel the same way! Excellently worded.

  6. As we spoke about this morning it is commonplace and regrettably accepted to only send an e-mail or tweet appreciation note which is sad! Everyone (I believe) loves to get something in the mail that was handwritten because it meant they had to do more than a few strokes on the keyboard.

    Thanks for the post!

      • Well, let me just add that a thank-you email with a copy to the person’s manager never hurts. But you are right, every time I have gotten a hand written thank you from someone it really has made an impact. It’s fine to do both!

  7. Excellent post Arthur, this is truly a lost art. I personally send a thank you note to each of my clients the day after completing a job for them as well as a thank you and nice to meet you note for those interesting folks I chat with at a networking evnt.

  8. I am a proponent of writing thank you notes either in my handwriting on quality stationery or via thank you cards that are blank inside. While email may work for a quick “Thanks” to a friend or colleague at work via your PC, the handwritten note makes you think about your words, write them in a concise manner, and double check the letter before physically mailing it.
    My professional point of view is it confirms an extra effort made by the person and it separates them from their peers who may not do it.


  9. Thank you, Mr. Catalanello.

    I was also raised and trained to write ‘thank you’ notes and I’m still surprised by the number of peers that may not have been. I’m considering sending this piece to my last intern the next time she asks for another recommendation or interview…. After not receiving any acknowledgement of my time, she won’t be receiving further assistance.

  10. Arthur, I agree. I always send a Thank You to clients for their business. Additionally I send Thank You notes when people meet with me for networking and business development meetings. Often, THEY thank ME for the thank you notes. This tells me they appreciate them and don’t get very many.

  11. Hey Arthur, I like the handwritten thank you note and it is still something I do. I am trying to go one better than the thank you note to vendors. I am posting about great customer service stories and including a hyperlink so others can go see their website after reading my stories. I felt that I owed them some help in building their businesses after many years of service. So it is sort of a public thank you which I hope is of even more value to them.

  12. Hi Arthur,
    Great post!
    I too write thank you notes, especially following interviews. In most cases, I will send an email in the essence of time and state that a written note follows.
    I have heard of people writing thank you notes and then once on the job, they find their note displayed on the person’s desk. Seeing the note is quite flattering to the person who wrote it.

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