Thank You Notes: Just Do It

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to trying to craft the perfect thank you note?

If so, Dan Ariely has some solid advice for you in the email exchange below.

Dear Dan,

I know I should probably write thank-you notes for the holiday gifts I received, but I’m bad at composing them. I end up wasting lots of note cards with rewrites that still end up sounding insincere. I’m starting to wonder if this endeavor is really worthwhile. —Amit

And Dan’s reply:

Keep going with your thank-you notes! Expressing gratitude is incredibly worthwhile and easier than you think.

What you’re experiencing is a basic perspective-taking problem. Many people share your worry about finding the right words to express gratitude and about sounding sincere. People on the receiving end, however, value a thank you of any type and tend to pay more attention to the warmth of the note than the quality of the writing.

To study such “gratitude mis-calibrations,” researchers asked people to write thank-you notes and then predict how they thought their expressions of gratitude would be received. Then they asked the actual recipients to report how the notes affected them. Senders predicted that recipients would experience an average happiness rating of three (on a scale of one to five), whereas the actual recipients rated their happiness at 4½.

Perhaps because we underestimate how happy our expressions of thanks make others, we let unnecessary concerns get in the way of conveying our gratitude. The best way to motivate ourselves to write thank you notes may be to experience receiving them—in which case, allow me to express my thanks to you for sending me this question.

I have to admit I don’t really have this particular problem; my first draft of a thank you is usually my final draft.

I have a bigger problem.

Procrastinating or completely forgetting to send a thank you note.

But I think the research study Dan cites is still relevant. I know how much I enjoy receiving thank you notes, so if I could just remember that when it comes time for me to send me one, it would make it much more likely that I’ll remember to send one.

So now that I’ve publicly committed to writing more thank you notes, let me begin by thanking all of you who follow, read, like, or comment on my blog posts. It is greatly appreciated.

And if someone from the Republic of the Congo read my blog, I’d be quite grateful… 🙂

*image from the Maralee McKee  Etiquette School of America

76 thoughts on “Thank You Notes: Just Do It

  1. Congo 😭😂 Love seeing you throw that in at the end lol I’m praying for you!

    I am pretty good at thank you notes.. sometimes I prewrite them on my phone but often it’s by the seat of my pants… I also find if I don’t know where to start or what to say, I just keep it simple… “Thank you, I loved this gift, it means so much to me that it came from you. How very thoughtful!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ll keep throwing that Congo thing in my posts until I get a view 🙂

      and I think I take a standard approach to most of my thank you notes, that’s why I don’t struggle too much with what to write, it’s more remembering to write…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. In this day and age handwritten thank you notes seem to be a thing of the past!
    But they are nice to receive. 😊
    And yes, knowing what to write in a Thank You card isn’t the hard part, remembering to write is!
    LOL at how you made sure to get the Congo in your post. Hope it pays off for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Even a thank you text or email is a pleasant surprise these days. I was shocked to receive a written thank you note via snail mail from my BFF’s daughter for her wedding shower for which I bought a gift but was unable to attend. This young lady is more old-fashioned than my own daughters. In that respect she’s following in her mom’s footsteps while my girls are probably following in mine! Looking back, I think that evaluation is supported by actual past events.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I really enjoyed Dan Ariely’s books, he introduced me to the fascinating studies of behavioral economics. I think this is a cool way of suggesting that in some ways it’s a lot easier to make other people happy than we think it is! We underestimate ourselves in social exchange.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. As children, we always had to write thank-you notes and that habit has stuck with me…I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who comments here you keep me amused at the banter and brings me back for more as for the Congo you gets marks for trying, Jim…:)

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Yes, we always had to mind our P & Q’s and write thank you letters but it instilled politeness in us …Plus yes there are some great sense of senses of humour among the commentators here 🙂 x

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I received a few hand written nice thank you notes that had unique messages. Some were standard if they were for bridal showers or baby showers, or college gifts. I still have many pretty unused thank you notes. These days, I email, text, or call. The postage is getting expensive and it’s taking longer and longer to deliver. Even priority mail takes three or four days to be delivered!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I kept many of my thank you notes from students and parents over the years. I’m sure that happens more at the elementary level than at college.

    The next time a telemarketer calls and asks if you have any questions, you should ask, “Do you know any people from the Republic of Congo?”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have kept such notes as well, but I am sure it is no where near the number you have.

      I’ll try your strategy, except I can’t remember the last time I spoke to a telemarketer…


  7. Dear Jim,
    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful post. I read it soon after waking this morning, still in bed with my early cup of tea, I found it quite uplifting (your post, not the tea) and it has set me up nicely for the rest of the day. As a Buddhist I regularly try to express my gratitude in any way I can, and I am hoping that my short note here is expressed in a way that shows the gratitude I feel. I really must try harder to write such notes to all of the blogs I follow.
    With kind regards

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I think we all need to send more thank you notes in life. I generally send a handwritten card. When I actually do it. But I guess emails and phone calls, texts or comments are all good too. But getting a card in the post is a lot more special I think. And I’m sure the person receiving it really appreciates it.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Recognizing our blessings and thanking the people responsible is important no matter the form the thanks take. Whether a note in the mail, an email, a phone call, or a moment together in person, taking the time to say “thank you” is what is remembered, not the exact words written or spoken. Your thanks have been warmly received and I send my own in return!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I like your approach to getting people from a country to visit by writing about that country – how’s it going getting a visit from North Korea?

    Thank you notes are great, though no need to waste thank you cards, just write it on note paper then transfer the words across when satisfied with the final draft!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m not much of a thank -you-card-writer. But I do understand its value. I remember having to write tens of those for the people who had attended my mother’s funeral. My goal was to make each one of them unique and customized to the individual. Around number five, I felt exhausted. It was difficult to finish and the quality decreased as I kept on going. But, I did try…

    When I get a card, I get excited. But when I open it and all it says is “thank you for XYZ, + signature” I feel pretty deflated. What was the whole point? Just say it to me and don’t waste trees.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. you are very welcome and I am a big thank-you note person. always write them and love to receive them. I just love to write letters so it works well for me. p.s. I think that the republic of Congo is currently engaged in some serious military and violent group activity

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Cheers to thank you notes! My students dictate what they want to say, I write their words on chart paper, and then they decorate the thank you note. In this way, there are layers to cement the habit and importance of thank you notes. I wish I knew how to attach a photo onto this comment…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. what a great habit to instill into the children at such a young age. One of our favorite charities is DonorsChoose, and whenever we make a donation, we always get the kind of thank you note you describe…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I love handwritten forms of thank you notes, both receiving and sending. And yeah, ain’t nobody got time to rewrite a few drafts for that, lol. And glad to see your Congo quest still going strong! All the best, Jim!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.