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Thank You for Nothing

Listen, I know you really like this column. I’m thrilled that reading my well-chosen, artisanal words every week is the high point of your drab existence.

What I don’t understand is why you don’t send a thank-you note.

Would it really kill you to take a few moments out of your depressing day to pop off a few paragraphs of appreciation on quality stationery? Even an email would be a step in the right direction. And what better way to show the difference I make in your life than adding a check for a few hundred dollars? (Cashier’s checks only, please. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I don’t trust you.)

It was only when I read the “Professional Thank You Letter Guide” on the Indeed website that I realized the reason you don’t send a thank you isn’t because you don’t appreciate me: It’s because you don’t know how.

Which bring us to the professional guide.

“Why are thank-you notes important?” is the first question in the article.

“It’s common courtesy,” is reason No. 1, though I honestly don’t see how anyone living in these frazzled times can consider courtesy common.

“It shows professionalism,” is reason No. 2. Unfortunately for you, the level of professionalism demonstrated drops precipitously when you write your thank you with marinara sauce on an empty pizza box.

Reason No. 3 is “it will help people remember you.” Indeed. You can be sure their memory of you will be set in stone when the recipient sees your third grade spelling and second grade grammar.

“It is healthy to have a gratitude-oriented mindset,” is reason No. 4.

“Practicing gratitude can help you be happier overall, often leading to increased performance at work and overall success toward your goals,” our text insists. I don’t believe it, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

“I’m very grateful for this miserable work environment you have created and all your other efforts to make my life unbearable,” you could write to your boss. “You’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.”

Is it possible this display of gratitude will make your boss realize what a horrible person they are and change their ways?

Nah.

As for timing, “it’s best to send the note immediately after you’ve finished the meeting.” I say it’s even better to send the note before the meeting. That way, no matter how awful the meeting turns out, you’re covered.

An important question about thank-you notes is how to send them. Some people prefer to receive a handwritten thank you because it is “much more personal.” If you’re dealing with this kind of Stone Age Luddite, get out your quill pen and start scratching away. Unfortunately, since 110% of all communication these days is digital, the recipient of your thank you is unlikely to remember the U.S. mail even exists.

Until Amazon starts delivering thank-you notes, my best suggestion is to go to the recipient’s home and deliver your handwritten note in person. Some recipients may consider this an invasion of privacy, but most will be charmed by your efforts. Be sure to pack a suitcase, just in case your thank you is so fulsome and your handwriting is so elegant that the party being thanked insists you stay the weekend.

Another matter to be resolved is who should receive your thank you. When it’s a one-on-one situation, like thanking the arrogant HR person who showed their disdain for you all through a torturous interview, the answer is obvious: no one. But if you are meeting a group of people, either together or serially, a fundamentally lazy individual like yourself may consider personalized thank-you notes too much work.

It is. That’s why I recommend you create a boilerplate thank you into which you can easily insert the names of specific individuals and events. Here’s an example that should work for you:

“Dear (blank),

“Please accept my sincere and personal thanks for (blank). I’m very sorry I said (blank). I understand there is no way you will ever forgive me for (blank), (blank) and, certainly, (blank). My only excuse was that I was totally (blank) at the time.

“P.S. If you still are angry with me after receiving this, you can go straight to (blank).”

That should solve all your thank-you problems. And if you want to send me a thank you for teaching you how to send a thank you, you go right ahead.

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Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California.