‘Tis the season, and the season really begins with Thanksgiving, especially if you read all the stories about Black Friday. As you sit down to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends, this seems an appropriate time to talk about “thank you.”
Appreciating others and what they do for you is such a simple, positive thing to do, yet people are always asking questions like: “Do I have to write a thank-you note?” or “Is it okay to send an email thanks?”
What these questions imply is that saying “thank you” in any form is a chore I have to do, and if I didn’t have to do it perhaps I wouldn’t be bothered to do it. To answer these questions take a moment and shift your attitude from thinking of “thank-you” as an obligation to thinking of it as an opportunity.
As an obligation, thanking someone is something we have to do. And when we “have” to do something, we tend to put it off in favor of things we like to do. So the likelihood of the thank you being done diminishes the more it feels like an obligation. However, when thanking someone is seen as an opportunity, it becomes something we want to do. And when we want to do something, we are more likely to make the effort to do it.
Any manner in etiquette should have a reason behind it. Saying "thank you" for the meal you just enjoyed or the gift you just received, especially at this holiday time, acknowledges the effort a person has made on your behalf. People like to be appreciated. They are more likely to want to make that effort for you again if they are appreciated rather than ignored. So it’s to your benefit to thank them.
How can you be sure your thank you demonstrates your appreciation? Of course you can thank them as you leave the meal or when they put a gift in your hands. The heartfelt thank you, the one they will remember, is the second thank you made the next day. You pick up your phone and call or write an email or best yet, with pen in hand, write a thank-you note. When they receive that hand-written note, they read it and then enjoy it time and again when they see it on their refrigerator or lying on their counter or desk. However you choose to do it, thank them that second time because you want to, because you view it as an opportunity to be appreciative of the effort they have made for you. That’s giving thanks and that’s Thanksgiving, the start of the holiday season.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
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