Often, a ‘thank you’ note can feel like a chore – something else to cross off your to-do list.
I recently read of the work of Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California – Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami. Safe to say, they would disagree with this description of ‘thank you’ notes.
Emmons and McCullough are two of the leading researchers on gratitude; groups of participants in one of their studies were tasked with either writing down things that happened during the day that annoyed them or that simply happened, not good or bad. A third group specifically wrote down positive interactions and events. After 10 weeks, this third “positivity” group reported feeling better about life and more hopeful than their counterparts. Even more, according to Harvard Medical School, “they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation” (read more here).
If gratitude really does make a difference, why not practice it more at work – starting with ‘thank you’ notes? Here are some tips for writing them effectively:
1. Don’t start with “I.”
In theory, a ‘thank you’ note is not about you – it’s about thanking the individual or group you’re sending it to. By starting your note with “I,” you immediately make it about yourself. Instead, consider starting with “Thank you so much for…”
2. Be careful with stationary and handwriting.
Professionalism matters, people. Be mindful of your stationary in professional settings. The note you send to your Aunt Carol thanking her for the birthday sweater she knitted for you? That should totally be on your glittery, purple stationary. The note you send to your coworker? That should be on simpler, more professional stationary. You’ll want to make sure the note is taken seriously and showcases a mature, professional tone.
“Ana, I can’t hand-write notes, because my handwriting is the worst in all of human history.”
Well, take your time writing ‘thank you’ notes – and re-write them if they still look too sloppy. Hand-written notes send a much stronger, more genuine message than an email – but try to avoid handwriting that is so terrible one can’t even read who the note is from.
3. Don’t wait too long.
You’ll want the individual to receive the note while the reason for it is fresh in their mind. BUT – don’t send it too quickly, because that can look as if you’re crossing it off your to-do list. You’ll want to showcase sincere gratitude.
4. Don’t copy and paste.
A ‘thank you’ note should be an original statement of gratitude and appreciation. While the notes you write may share similar sentiments, the words themselves should never be copied and pasted.
5. ALWAYS after an interview.
Always. Always. Always after an interview. Did you bomb the interview and answer every question wrong and rip your pants and get lost so you showed up 25 minutes late? It happens (and I’ve heard worse). While you recover, put on Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” and write your ‘thank you’ notes. Here’s my post-interview ‘thank you’ policy (mind you, these are for in-person interviews):
First: Send a ‘thank you’ email about 5-6 hours after the interview has ended.
Second: Pop a hand-written ‘thank you’ note in the mail that evening or early the next morning. Make sure the note is different from your email. Keep in mind, most companies will interview more than one person for a role – when a hiring manager receives your hand-written note in the mail a few days after your interview, they’ll be reminded of you and you get to leave a lasting impression (drop the mic, walk away).
Obstacles may come up – but choosing gratitude and joy is possible. Give it a shot – I promise you won’t regret it.