the power of thank you

Table of Contents

    Musing: The Power of Thank You

    The price of a first class stamp in the United States increased from $0.63 to $0.66 Sunday. That has a couple implications. Your Forever stamps languishing in your desk drawer outperformed your retirement investments last week. And mailing anything will cost more this coming week, not that it matters much since we rely on the mail much less than we used to.

    In 2006, the USPS delivered an estimated 213 billion units of mail. By 2022, that dropped to 127 billion, a 40% decrease.

    First class mail has declined even more dramatically. It fell from its peak of 103.7 billion units in 2001 to only 48.9 billion in 2022, a reduction of more than half.

    Not a single bill comes in my mail any more. Nor do I pay anything by check. Everything has become electronic. For the most part, I’m fine with that.

    But I have one major exception—handwritten thank-you notes.

    Like much of my generation, I heard from my parents the importance of writing a thank-you note after receiving a present. As a kid, I didn’t quite get it. Hadn’t I told the giver thank you? Why waste the time sitting down and scribbling out a brief note to repeat what I had already said?

    Like so many other childhood lessons, though, the value became clear early in adulthood.

    I went for the first round of job interviews. I did well in the short meetings with several managers, but wasn’t at the top of their list. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have heard from them again, except for one detail. I was the only candidate who sent thank-you notes. Not just a note, but a separate note to each person I had met that day.

    When I received the call to meet the big boss for the penultimate interview, I didn’t know that was the deciding factor. I found out when I sat down in his office. He opened a folder and showed me the stack of notes.

    The recipients had even compared them to see if I had written the same thing to each one. But I didn’t. Oh, yes, they each started with a thank you for taking the time to meet with me and ended with the same expression of interest in the job. In the middle, though, was a sentence or two about something particular from that interviewer.

    When I left the meeting with the big boss, I raced to write him a thank-you note. I didn’t have to, though, because they called with the job offer before he had received it.

    Certainly, a thank-you note doesn’t always have that dramatic effect, but I’ve found they’ve always had a positive impact. And I think that sway is even greater today than when I was starting my career a few decades ago.

    In today’s digital age, people receive dozens, even hundreds, of emails a day. Phones ping repeatedly with texts. Video conferences are constant. I can’t walk our neighborhood greenway without seeing at least one person talking on their cell phone.

    But how many of those people have received a handwritten note today? This week? Month? Year?

    Your own mail probably looks a lot like mine. Magazines. Ads. Maybe a computer-generated envelope made to look like a handwritten letter. I let my mail pile up and deal with it once a week. Sometimes I let it build for a second week. Nothing is that interesting.

    But a handwritten missive? Something that feels personal? Yes, I will open that immediately.

    And that’s why a letter is so much more powerful than an email. Or text. Those are good—better than nothing—but not the same.

    In my desk drawer, you’ll find a stack of card stock with only my name printed at the top. The entire note will fit on that card. A simple sentence saying thank you along with the specific thing that makes me grateful. A second sentence that says how I will use the gift, knowledge, or whatever was shared. And a third sentence saying thank you again. The magic formula. The card slips into a hand-addressed envelope. A stamp, now three cents more expensive, applied.

    A simple challenge for you this week. Find a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be special paper. Anything works.

    Grab a pen, sit down, and write a note. Mail it. And know you just put a smile on someone’s face.

    P.S. – I’ll close with something just for you.


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      During summer, thoughts turn to backyard grilling and tasty meals. What menu item comes to your mind when firing up the grill?


      Enjoyed the Story? Try a Short Story

      Secrets, passions, and a reunion that changes everything

      Benjamin Walsh sees his wife, Nicole, walking down a city street. With her busy schedule at work, he doesn’t know how she found time to get away, but tries to catch up to say hello.

      To his surprise, she greets an old friend of hers, Eduardo Rivera. Eduardo left town two decades earlier to pursue a theatrical career in New York. What is he doing back?

      Benjamin is shocked when Eduardo and Nicole embrace. They disappear through a door together. With understanding of what is happening, Benjamin realizes he has only one choice.

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      Gratuitous Dog Photo: Squinting Into The Sun

      it's really bright - the power of thank you
      It’s really bright

      Landon says that midday sun is really bright. And hot. And why isn’t he headed for some shade? Or, better, inside to the air conditioning? Don’t worry, that happened just a few minutes later.


      Until Next Monday

      Go ahead and write that thank-you note. Make someone’s day.

      If you have questions or thoughts, drop them in the comments below.

      See you next Monday.

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      11 Comments

      1. JEAN BURKHARDT on July 10, 2023 at 6:09 am

        I have often thought and said exactly what you wrote on today’s Monday Musings. The lack of thank you notes(which were always a part of my life as a child and young adult) don’t seem to happen much anymore. yes a text and email are better than nothing BUT a handwritten note is wonderful. I STILL have kept a few from years ago for my memory box! Thanks DK WALL for the reminder.

        Also glad Landon was able to retreat to the air conditioning!!

      2. Malinda Lounsbury on July 10, 2023 at 6:50 am

        Dear Mr. Wall, Thank you so much for this Monday Musing. I send out many birthday and anniversary cards (and thank you notes when appropriate) to my family. Every time the price of stamps goes up I think to myself that I need to stop or cut back, but then my niece will say how much her three children love getting my card in the mail. It is the only birthday card they still get by mail. Then another person will mention how nice it is to get a card in the mail and I will continue to buy and send cards for another year. I just try to find the cards at more reasonable prices and then the more expensive stamp doesn’t seem so bad.
        Keep up the good work and I enjoy these Monday Musings.

      3. Terry G on July 10, 2023 at 8:16 am

        Great reminder of the simple ways we can show real kindness to others- thank you 💕
        Also-thanks for sharing another beautiful picture of
        BB Landon 😘

      4. Laura on July 10, 2023 at 9:34 am

        Just got the most beautiful handwritten thank you note from Lucas Y..I’m sure you remember his grandmother. We attended his high school graduation party. Began Dear Kdots… lol which is what his dad and his siblings always called us.. ended with Love Lucas my heart overflows with gratitude for the gratitude

      5. Karen on July 10, 2023 at 11:08 am

        Despite giving numerous graduation, wedding and baby shower gifts over the years, I have received ONE thank you note. One. And it was from an 18-year-old high school graduate.

      6. Susan on July 10, 2023 at 1:57 pm

        My mom also brought me up to write thank you notes. The rule was that I couldn’t use or play with the gift until the note was written. I think that before I could write, she’d write it, and I’d draw a picture on it.

        Strictly speaking, writing a thank you note has nothing to do with a person’s ability to do a job. If there are several roughly equivalent candidates, it differentiates you, which can be helpful. But I’m pretty sure I was never hired because I wrote a thank you note. It does show that you’re willing to go the extra mile, which some employers may be looking for.

        And some may not care. They may have already decided to hire their cousin’s college roommate’s stepson, or their fraternity brother or sorority sister, or their pastor’s niece or nephew, or whatever, so they’re just interviewing other credible candidates to make it look good to HR.

        I think you’re a late Baby Boomer like I am, and there were *so* many of us competing for jobs that we looked for any little edge to make us stand out! Apparently this one worked for you at least once.

      7. Juno's mom on July 10, 2023 at 3:56 pm

        A little bit of courtesy goes a long way. It’s becoming a lost art.

      8. Elizabeth Mittler on July 10, 2023 at 5:33 pm

        Dear Mr. Wall,The thank you letter was important to my generation, the late depression child. I do send hand-written thank you notes and have stepped them up by painting scene with acrylics, on the front of the cards. I taught my children and grand-children the importance of showing gratitude and mentioning kindness. I know how it feels when someone does the same for me.
        An interesting example came into my inbox quite unexpectedly. It was not hand-written as the writer knew her handwriting had deteriorated and had never been stellar. Just after Covid19 devastated my community where we had lived for 39 years and were closely integrated with many close friendship I had to move to live with my daughter. There was no chance to say good-bye except for a walk-by-and-wave. But, back to the letter.
        Our Thursday morning coffee hour included on woman who questioned everything anyone else said and often had other women walking out in tears. One could almost see her defensive prickles and barbed tongue. I knew that confronting her would not change her attitude, so I just overlooked her barbs and carried on as always. I was the oldest and longest resident in this retirement community so others picked up my cues and the lady was included in everything. After a few months in my new home I found a thank you letter in my inbox. The lady thanked me for the “wisdom and acceptance I had shown” and related she was now finding that being a friend was easier. The one example of wisdom she remembered most was to not flush Kleenex down the toilet as it tended to clog the pipe! I recall she had challenged that and asked for a reason. I had not “blown her off but given a good explanation.” That had made her realize just going for cooffee was not a situation for conflict. So she thanked me.

      9. Kathye Shuman on July 13, 2023 at 2:21 pm

        My adult son went to addiction recovery a couple of months ago. Part of the program is no screens and very limited phone calls (on a land line). What is important is mail. It took me back to the 90’s and writing him letters at camp, one every day so that he would know that I was thinking of him. I dug out my note cards and my unused Christmas stamps and started writing. It felt odd..my handwriting has changed over the years. But encouraging words are always welcome. I even sent a few to other family members. I made sure to go and buy a supply of stamps before the price went up. I’m going to try and keep up this practice. You are right…Handwritten notes are always a welcome site in the mail.

      10. Lina Selvanera on July 18, 2023 at 7:07 pm

        Dear Mr Wall ,
        I enjoyed reading your article about sending a hand written thank you card or any other type of handwritten letter which expresses one of many feelings of gratitude and Love . I try and do this because like you I believe that it has a very powerful connection to the recipient. Very often I get a thank you back written in person .
        If it takes the simple price of a postage stamp to bring joy to a person then it is priceless , It means that a kind heart has thought of another kind heart ❤️❤️

      11. janet Davies on July 20, 2023 at 10:44 am

        firstly, thank you for your reminder about thank you notes. i still post cards to people who are too far to hand deliver, and love getting things in the post myself. i bulk buy stamps so i always have them. but the younger relatives don’t seem to believe in saying thank you, and many have been crossed off the gifts list because of this. I don’t know if they ever made the connection. It’s their loss.

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