Whenever possible, I try to say thank you. A word, a phone call or a quick email to express gratitude can go a long way. However, I realized recently, that I have become out of practice in the art of writing a thank you note by hand. These days, with time at a premium and the computer always in front of me, sometimes a text “thank you” is all people receive.
Stanford Professor Tina Seeling, in her recent Ted talk, The Little Risks You can Take to Increase your Luck, discusses techniques she uses to improve her luck. One of her strategies is to write daily thank you notes to everyone she has met with that day. She does this because she knows that thank you notes she has received have changed and improved her opinion of others.
And there is further evidence that a thank you note is more than worth your time. In the study, “Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation,” published in the journal Psychological Science, the researchers analyzed both gratitude givers and receivers. They concluded that the gratitude givers “systematically undervalue its positive impact on recipients in a way that could keep people from expressing gratitude more often in everyday life.” What this means is that people don’t typically say “thank you” as often as they should to improve their and others overall well-being.
Although some kind of thank you better than none, a handwritten note does something that quicker thank you’s do not. It shows you have taken extra steps and that you really appreciate the gesture the meeting or the favor. In years past, after receiving gifts for birthdays or holidays, I would sit down and write ten or twenty notes in one day. I have terrible handwriting, so sometimes notes had to be written twice, but they always got done. When I was finished, I felt a sense of satisfaction, knowing I’d done the right thing.
So I’m committing to writing notes again. You should too. And we can both watch the outcome as we express heartfelt gratitude and help improve ourselves and the world in our own small way.