Tips on the proper way to say “Thank you”

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Etiquette expert Ellen Reddick shares her insights and tips on how to make your thank yous more meaningful.

It is important to say thank you because:

  • We recognize that someone had a choice – they didn’t have to send us a gift. We are not entitled to a gift.
  • Saying thank you acknowledges our dependence on others. No man is an island.
  • We should appreciate the act of giving and the time it took to think of the gift, buy it and wrap it.
  • It is important to recognize the time it took, especially because we are a time deprived society.
  • We acknowledge our relationship with the giver. It’s a simple sign of respect.
  • If we do not express gratitude, our relationship might change because we show we don’t care about the other person.
  • People give gifts because they are looking for recognition, respect and affection.
  • If we are not thanked, we worry our gift was meaningless. By demeaning the gift, we demean the giver.
  • By undermining the code of conduct, we belittle the worth of others. What we are saying is: I don’t have to thank you because you mean nothing to me.
  • It is contagious. If you do something nice for someone, they will do something nice for someone else.
  • If we start chipping away at gratitude and common courtesy, life becomes very unpleasant.

What are some traditional displays of gratitude?

  • A simple verbal thank you
  • A written note for a gift, help, sharing time, hospitality, and invitations
  • Flowers
  • Chocolates
  • Telephone call or e- mail
  • Simple gift
  • Gift of time: babysitting, car wash
  • Rituals of gratitude and social skills serve as moorings – they provide security and structure

Thank you notes

  • They should be hand written within 24 hours.
  • 3-5 sentences are fine.
  • Don’t begin: Thank you for the gift. Start with some news, how much you enjoyed the gift etc.
  • Mention the gift by name, how you will spend the money or how the gift will be used.
  • Emphasize the thoughtfulness of the person not the gift.
  • Be positive and up beat. Do not be critical of the gift.
  • A telephone invitation can be answered with a telephone thank you.
  • A written invitation requires a written thank you note.
  • We take a lot of people for granted.
  • We ignore a lot of little common courtesies and kindnesses that are the basis of a civil life. Without them, life can become quite unpleasant.

Always Thank Someone

  • For holding the door open.
  • On the road – when someone lets you into a line of cars.
  • For preparing dinner.
  • For driving you to work or school.
  • For serving you in a store or restaurant.
  • We need to separate the act of giving from the gift itself.
  • Appreciate the act of giving – liking the gift is a bonus!

For more from Ellen, go here.