Do I Have to Write a Thank You Note?

My son just celebrated his first birthday, and though we didn’t have a big party, I still found myself with quite a list of thank you notes to write when all was said and done. Looking at it brought back vivid memories of my own childhood, and the day my mom would sit me down at the kitchen table to write to my grandma, aunts and uncles to thank them for whatever they had sent in the mail. Oh, how I dragged my feet, knowing I’d have to sit and write, and write, and write, when I could have been playing with my toys. It’s funny how much times have changed. Though it was more difficult to find time to write the notes this year, I couldn’t wait to get started.

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In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a modern lady who owns multiple books on etiquette. It may not be normal to have a situation arise and go running to Emily Post for the answer, but in many instances, that’s what I do. So to answer the question up top, yes, of course you have to write a thank you note. For someone who took the time to mentor you, for someone who helped you out in a pinch, for a gift, for a meal (homemade or in a restaurant), even for the parents of a bride or groom who just paid a lot of money so you could celebrate their child’s wedding. Yes. For that. You absolutely have to write a handwritten note.

It seems like everywhere you turn these days, someone is telling you to cultivate gratitude in your life. Studies show that there isn’t much that makes happy people different from anyone else. Rather, happy people are happy because they’ve taken the time to notice and be grateful for little things around them. And they express that gratitude. Enter the hand-written thank you note. Hear me out, and just give this a try. When you next sit down to pen a thank you to someone, don’t begin with the words, “thank you.” Crazy, I know. Think about why you’re writing the note. In the case of my son’s first birthday, I started one:

Dear X,

You have been such an important part of our son’s first year. He loves when you come over to visit. Even if he’s had a grumpy day, you instantly cheer him up.

Take a minute to gush about the person to whom you’re writing. Tell them what they mean to you and how great they are. In the case of weddings or bridal showers, I usually start along the lines of:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parents of the Bride,

What a beautiful weekend we had celebrating Mr. and Mrs. Newlywed! They make the most wonderful couple, and you certainly know how to throw a great party. Everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

By doing this, you’re making the note about the recipient. And the act of physically writing it out will help you slow down and take a moment to reflect on some of the little things in your life worth being grateful for.

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