Genuine Gratitude: Make Your Next ‘Thank You’ a Meaningful One

BY Sandy Lindsey TIMEJune 2, 2022 PRINT

Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “thank you.” Use them often and sincerely, so the recipient knows you’re not just practicing good etiquette, but are truly grateful.

Thank You 101

Children are taught to say “thank you” at an early age, yet many adults find it awkward to convey the depth of their gratitude. It all starts with eye contact, which transmits authentic sincerity. Smile and speak clearly when speaking; don’t be shy and risk garbling the message. Be specific about what you’re thanking them for, such as, “Thank you for a wonderful dinner” or “Thank you for jumping in on the project. You’re a lifesaver.” If the relationship allows, you can squeeze their hand or forearm, hug them, or give a cheek kiss. If it’s a big deal, follow up with a handwritten thank you card.

The Quick Thanks

Even short thank you’s can be made more meaningful by simply varying your vocabulary. When someone brings you coffee, picks up something you dropped, or simply holds the door for you, you can never go wrong with the basic “Thank you.” However, phrases such as “Thanks a million,” “You made my day,” “I really appreciate it,” “I can’t thank you enough,” “I’m touched,” “I owe you one,” or even “You’re the best!” spice things up and show an enhanced level of enthusiasm and sincerity.

Thank You Notes

Handwritten notes personalize our gratitude. Whether they’re in response to a gift, a job interview, or something else, the eloquent notes all have some key points in common. Start by thanking the person for the gift/interview/etc. Then go further with specifics, to show them that you appreciate the thought they put into choosing just the right gift for you, or the kindness they showed you at the interview, or their patience for answering all your questions. Make it about them, their kindness, and their efforts.

Gracious Emails

Emailed thank you notes are appropriate when you’re in a business situation, when you need to get the thank you to the person faster than the postal service can, or if what was done doesn’t quite qualify for a written card, but you want them to know you really appreciate what they did all the same. An email thank you starts with a great subject line (so that they open it among their 100 other emails that day). In writing the email itself, the rules are similar to a handwritten note with the caveat that it shouldn’t run too long, particularly if you’re sending it to them at work.

Expressive Texts

If you inform an etiquette enthusiast that you sent a meaningful thank you via text, be ready to have smelling salts ready, as they will probably faint in horror. There is one situation, however, when sending a thank you via text is wholly appropriate: when you are in the midst of a text conversation. In fact, texting gives you the ability to combine a quick thanks with the details of a handwritten note and should fall somewhere in between the two in length. Use words, not emojis, to express the depth of your feelings about their kindness and generosity.

Sandy Lindsey is an award-winning writer who covers home, gardening, DIY projects, pets, and boating. She has two books with McGraw-Hill.
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