Emily Post, the maven of etiquette, was adamant in her penchant for showing gratitude. Regardless of the situation, the correct social response demanded a written expression of thanks.
In today’s tech-savvy world, written thank you notes have been relegated to formal social occasions such as weddings. Many business experts recommend using a written thank you after an interview as a way of indicating your interest in a position and of keeping your name near the top of the list.
In many circumstances, etiquette advisors now recommend that a simple email will suffice to show appreciation. Even with the use of technology, however, most people have gotten away from sending thank you notes, to the detriment of social relations.
Why have people shied away from showing their gratitude?
In most instances, people would agree that they are thankful and appreciative of another’s efforts. Whether it is a colleague who stays late to finish a project, a contact who provides meaningful input into a project or a supervisor who offers motivation, most individuals realize that they benefit from another’s assistance. Why aren’t more people willing to show their gratitude?
According to a study done by two US psychologists, there are two reasons for a failure to express gratitude.
Reason #1: Feelings of Inadequacy
A careful look at the education system reveals the basis for this concern. Without wading into the controversial waters of current educational curricula, the simple reality is that schools are no longer teaching students of any age how to write a thank you note.
As a result, most adults express concern over their competency in showing their gratitude. Unsure about what to say and hesitant to say something awkward, many people simply choose to say nothing, missing the opportunity to share their gratitude.
Reason #2: Underestimating the Impact
Perhaps most compelling in the study, researchers discovered that people are simply unaware of the positive impact that showing gratitude can have on others.
When asked to predict the response of those receiving a thank you note, researchers found that the sender of a note severely underestimated the way they would feel. Recipients of thank you notes reported that they were more inclined to think positive thoughts about the sender and were grateful to be recognized.
Interestingly, neither age nor gender made a difference in the results. When a person received a thank you note, they perceived the sender to be genuine, warm and appreciative – regardless of how inadequate the sender may have felt when writing the note.
Business leaders who wish to solidify relationships in the workplace, or anyone looking to improve their social relationships and well-being, may be surprised at the value of a simple ‘thank you’. While gratitude is not a currency that can be traded for favours, one might be surprised at the benefits that come from showing appreciation for others.
Perhaps you had it drilled into your head as a child: Don’t forget to write a thank-you note! After every birthday or holiday, your mom would systematically get out a box of cards for you to begin the laborious task of writing a note detailing your appreciation for a gift.
That simple task may be the key to unlocking a new level of success in your relationships with others.
Feeling unsure of what to write? Visit your local bookstore for a book on writing thank you notes or do a simple web search for inspiration on what to say.
Not sure if it will really mean anything to the person you’re writing? Start with those close to you, perhaps by writing a thank you note to a friend or family member and express what they mean to you. Who can you thank today?
The My Big Idea™ program includes a dedicated section on gratitude and provides an effective framework to craft the ideal thank you note appropriate for any situation.
Michele Bailey is president and CEO of Blazing Agency and My Big Idea™. These two lines of business work congruently to support her clients’ success.