The Lost Art Of Thank You Cards
Eva Taylor Grant
Of all lost arts, writing “thank you” on cardstock is not particularly difficult, but it can feel like a major hurdle even when you know it’s the right thing to do. So whether you have thank you notes on your to-do list, or are simply looking for a reason to get inspired about this habit again, here’s some food for thought about why this lost art is more important than ever.
To get started, think about how happy you were last time someone sent you a “thank you.” There are few warmer feelings than receiving a handwritten card in the mail. And you can probably name exactly who in your life has mastered the art of the thank you note. Yet our minds seem to be bustling with excuses not to send them ourselves.
The question is: why? Devoreaux Walton, a modern etiquette expert and founder of The Modern Lady, tells MAED that thank you notes are another casualty of our era of convenience. “Thank you notes were born in an era without laptops, smartphones and tablets. If verbal communication face-to-face was king, written communication was queen,” Walton says. “Fast forward to today and we are seeing a rapid decline in the popularity of writing and sending thank you notes. In general, people today prefer what is convenient.” And as adults in the age of technology, it’s important to find ways to break down this obsession with convenience. Whether it means taking time for a social media detox and calling, not DM’ing, your friends for a week, or scheduling a time for a longer, but more meaningful, morning routine, breaking down the need for instant gratification in exchange for more meaningful connection to yourself and the world around you is vital. So for those of us who are looking to become more connected, and for more ways to practice gratitude, beginning to write thank you notes again should be a vital first step.
It’s important to look at your trepidations about sending thank you notes on a larger scale. “It is quick and easy to send a text message, post on social media, or email note. It is also less expensive,” Walton concedes. “Digital communication is free to send, whereas a thank you note requires the card, envelope and postage.” But with services like stamps.com, you shouldn’t have to worry. Plus, these excuses should be looked at from a more macro level. “Showing gratitude should always be less about yourself and more about the person you are honoring and appreciative of,” Walton says.
You do not need to write a note to everyone, or to write notes that are pages long; you simply should remember how meaningful the practice is, even when done occasionally. Just one page, with a concrete example of how this person has made you feel grateful, can be a game-changer.
“Writing thank you notes shows that you care enough to take the time and sit down to thoughtfully handwrite a message to someone special,” Walton says. “It’s personal. It’s considerate. It’s going the extra mile.” The person you send this note to, whether they’re a potential employer, a grandparent, or an old friend, will be able to hold in their hand a sign of your gratitude. A screenshot of a nice email or text can provide instant gratification; a thank you note will stay in that person’s heart.
There are all sorts of times and reasons to write thank you notes. A favor, or a gift, are obvious times where a card is a good idea. Something as simple as feeling grateful for having someone in your life, however, can also be enough to get the ball rolling. Writing a thank you note might also be an opportunity for you to get that deep feeling of satisfaction that only comes from a nice pen and new stationary. Plus, the cards themselves don’t have to be schmaltzy, especially in 2018. Buying cards from artists like People I’ve Loved and Emily McDowell Studio may motivate you to write what’s really on your mind, in the way typical greetings from the greeting card aisle might not.
Whatever you feel about them, thank you notes have always been important. But the fact that they’re rarer now has only made them more valuable. “In this digital, social media world we live in, thank you notes now mean more than they ever did before, because of the variety of communication options available, when you send someone a thank you note—they are sure to be impressed,” Walton says. Both you, and the recipient, will have the satisfaction of the meaningful connection of having put pen on paper, and a note in the mailbox.
There is nothing overrated about showing someone you care.
Eva Taylor Grant is a writer, cancer survivor and advocate. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Girlboss, and MAED, among others.