Practicing good etiquette is important.
Credit: Bryan Gardner

Have you ever wondered whether or not you need to send a thank-you note? Some people simply aren't sure when they're necessary. Would a thank-you note make things awkward? What if your card isn't well-received? One research study found that people often hesitate to write thank-you notes due to overestimating the awkwardness of sending them or underestimating the recipient's mood in receiving one. But this should answer any questions in your mind: More often than not, sending a card that expresses your gratitude is the best idea.

"There are circumstances where thank-you notes are expected as courtesy, and other times when they serve to reach out more unexpectedly as an extension of gratitude," says Dr. Julie Gurner, an executive coach. Writing a good thank-you note requires thoughtfulness. You have to sit down and take the time to write down why you are grateful to this person. If you choose to make your own card, this also gives you an opportunity to make an enhanced connection with the person you are thanking. Your cards should be as personalized as the action that inspired them.

Here, five times when it's important to send a thank-you note.

When You Receive a Gift

Receiving a gift from someone is the first situation that we think of when deciding if we should send a thank-you note. According to Jodi R. R. Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, any occasion in which you have received a gift should prompt a thank-you note from you. "Whether it is your birthday, anniversary, graduation, baby shower, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or any other gift-giving holiday, once the presents have been opened, the thank-you notes should be written," she says. Sincerity is key. Vague thank-you notes won't cut it when you are penning a response. Smith says that you need to let the recipient know why you appreciate the gift they have given to you.

After a Job Interview

Show the interviewer that you appreciate the time that they spent with you, while also reiterating that you are right for the job. "Typically, professional thank-you notes are sent as soon as possible after the interaction to create a memorable positive impression," says Dr. Gurner. "The classic thank-you note is handwritten; however, in a fast-moving interview process, it might be prudent to send your interviewer a brief thank-you email [when you know] that you will be hearing back from them within 24 to 48 hours for the next phases of the process." Professional thank-you notes should be brief, yet personal. A long letter of several pages will be less well-received than a note card with three to four paragraphs that explain your gratitude while addressing some highlights from the interview.

After Attending an Event (or Party)

Did you go to a dinner party or attend a fundraising event? You should definitely send a thank-you note. Your hostess needs to know that guests enjoyed the event and appreciate all of the work that went into making it possible. "Part of being a gracious guest is to thank the host after the conclusion of the event," says Smith. "The role of the guest includes; responding in a timely manner as to whether or not you plan to attend, arriving at the appropriate time, bringing a small token of your appreciation to the hostess, partaking in the festivities (including mingling with new people and sampling the food), leaving prior to the clean-up crew, and writing a short note thanking the hostess for a wonderful party." Smith also says that it is a good idea to reciprocate an invitation within the year.

Following a Professional Meeting

Like the post-interview thank-you note, a letter of thanks sent to your business contacts can help to foster a good impression and strengthen the professional relationship. "It's completely appropriate to send a thank-you note [that shows you] appreciate the time or advice another professional may have offered," Dr. Gurner says. Other times when you can send a professional follow up include touching base with a new conference contact, thanking and welcoming new business relationships, or conveying gratitude toward your long-standing clients. When you write the thank-you note, you want to include specific details of the interaction. Dr. Gurner says that this shows that you are attentive and that you value their perspective. Your thank-you notes should show that what you are thanking them for matters to you.

Random Acts of Kindness

Another great time to send a thank-you note is when someone has shown a random act of kindness toward you, or when you want to express your gratitude for something that someone does for you every day. On Mother's Day, for example, we thank our moms for taking care of us and giving us their love. We can send thank you notes to teachers, employers, friends, family members... anyone who has affected our lives in a positive way. Maybe we could all be like John Israel, who made it his mission to write five thank-you notes a day. Being grateful to the people in our lives also makes a positive difference in their lives, and that is something that we can get behind.


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