For as much as I try to focus in this space on communications topics where I have enough good experience to provide some value, I have to admit that there is one area where I could stand some improvement. That area for me is the art of the “thank you.”
I have a friend and colleague who is the absolute model of the proper way to thank people, whether the context is business or personal. I’ve come to expect that after nearly every interaction with her, she will surely follow up with the appropriate level of acknowledgement. If we meet for coffee, she’ll likely send an email shortly thereafter just saying how good it was to catch up. If we’ve worked on a project together, she usually sends a handwritten ‘thank you’ note that is written in such a way that you know she put some thought into it.
When she was a client, she was well known for how she would thank everyone who supported her efforts in any number of ways, but always accompanied by a nice ‘thank you’ note. I’d mention her name here, but I’m sure it would be against her wishes to call attention to her quiet practice of treating others with respect and appreciation.
What I’ve learned is there is a right way to thank people, and when you do it, it really can strike a positive chord with others. The key is first to be consistent about it. Don’t just thank people after particularly big projects or challenging times. Thank them all of the time.
When thanking people, consider the various ways to do it, from a simple email, to a handwritten note, accompanied by a token of appreciation in the form of a gift card, a specialty item, or even balloons or flowers. Handwritten notes are not only very personal, but because they can physically be saved (unlike a phone call or email) in a box or a drawer, they are quite often kept by their recipients for days when they need a pick-me-up. Handwritten notes can have a very long shelf-life.
And whenever thanking people, make sure to put some thought into the words you choose. Don’t just use stock language that suggests you have not given the message proper attention. Rather, in your note, tell them specifically what they did for you and why it was so important to you. Then thank them from the bottom of your heart.
I wish I could feature all of these tips in the context of a skill I’ve mastered, but in this area I am still a work in progress. But as I’ve been on the receiving end of proper ‘thank you’ notes, and as I have tried to work at it, I have gained an appreciation for the difference it can make.