Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why send a thank you note?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Josh asked a good question, "Why send a thank you note?"

Josh is off to UC Davis in the fall and was looking for an inexpensive bike to take with him. His mom asked around, and a friend had a bike he was happy to pass on to Josh for school. It turned out to be an amazing bike that Josh has fallen in love with.

Being Dad I asked Josh, "Did you send a thank you note?"

"I thanked him profusely, he knows how much I appreciate the gift," Josh explained.

"So, did you send a thank you note?" I repeated.

"I really did thank him, why send a thank you note?"

A really good question

I thought about Josh's question. Was I wanting him to send a thank you note because my mom taught me to send them? It does seem to be the polite thing to do... but that is not the reason I think Josh should send the note.


I think we should send notes of thanks because, it is very easy to verbalize thank you. Someone holds the door for me, I have no problem saying thank you. In fact, it would feel impolite if I didn't say thank you.

By sending a note, I am making an action out of my feelings. It shows my sincerity and my appreciation. I thought so much of someone's niceness towards me that I wanted them to feel my thanks and respect for them.

How do you write a thank you card?

On a piece of nice paper or note card I write a thank you note in 5 sections.

  1. Opening
  2. Talk about what they did for me
  3. Tell them what I feel and /or what I am doing with their gift
  4. Closing
  5. P.S.


Something fitting the relationship I have with the receiver.

Hi Bob,
Dear Robert,
Dear Mr. Thompson,

Talk about what they did for me

In this section talk about the gift giver:

Thank you so much for giving me the...
I really appreciate the time you gave me...
It was very kind of you to...

Tell them what I feel and /or what I am doing with their gift

I love the green and white sweater you gave me. I plan on wearing it to work on Monday. 
I really needed a new hard drive, I will put it to good use backing up my college papers. 

If you are given money, please avoid using the word 'money', it sounds cold or even a little greedy.

Bad example: Thanks the the cash. I really need money so I appreciate you giving me the dough.

Good example: 
  • I appreciate your generosity. Your kind gift will help me get to school on safe tires. 
  • Your gift will help me pay for books at school this semester.
  • Your kindness will help me...


The closing should reflect your relationship with the gift giver.

With respect,
Again thank you,
Be well,

Avoid 'sincerely' unless you are thanking a bank. It sounds cold and robotic.

P.S. (post scriptum, meaning "written after")

Repeat how you feel about the gift at the level of the relationship you have with the reader. Readers often read the P.S. first. Thus, they tend to read it twice.

Just want you to know how happy the ________________ made me feel.
I appreciate how much you care for me.
It was kind of you to see me.

In closing:

Don't over think the thank you note. Just tell the truth. It is OK to be a little vulnerable, the gift giver was kind to you and did something considerate for you. Be kind in return. A little humility and vulnerability is good for the soul.