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Gratitude Never Goes out of Style.

Or, the lost art of the Thank You Note.

When was the last time you said thank you? Not just a casual "thanks" as you grab a latte from the barista or a barely conscious acknowledgement of your sweet baboo running an errand to help you out? No, I'm talking about the kind of thanks that makes you pause, look another human being right in the eyes, say a heart felt, "Thank you" and feel the connection as they let your appreciation lift them up for a brief moment.

For most of us, we might have to stop and think -- hard -- about when that was. At this time of the year when we are feeling the residual gratitude of Thanksgiving and preparing for the inevitable holiday rush that follows, I invite you to join me in taking a moment to say thank you to someone who isn't expecting it.

Showing our appreciation for the thoughtful gestures of others is often lost in the workaday world. But, especially in business, a sincere thank you can make a lasting positive impression. The art of the thank you note, or should I say the lost art of the thank you note, for it is so seldom we receive one these days, is a time-honored way to offer someone who has helped you acknowledgement, to show them you noticed that they went out of their way to help you, and to make them feel appreciated.

Here's how to write a thank you note that will be remembered:

Make a great first impression: Invest in some nice stationery. If you have a more formal note or don't know the recipient well, choose a fine paper like Crane. Want to show a little personality? Select a card with a bit of whimsy. Online stationers like Tiny Prints allow you to personalize your stationery at an affordable price point. I like to keep a selection on hand so I always have the right paper.

Be Specific: Thank you notes are not the place for generic platitudes. Someone did something that warrants you sitting down for 10 minutes to hand-write a note. Let them know what moved you to write.

Be Brief: You're not writing the great American novel. A thank you note need only be 3-4 sentences to make your recipient feel special. I often use this formula: Thank them for what they did/gave/said. Tell them why that action/item was so meaningful to you. Say something nice about them as a person. Let them know you look forward to your next interaction/reiterate how thoughtful they are.

Be Sincere: A well-written note will touch the reader. Make that connection with them resonate by staying true to yourself. If you don't normally use flowery prose no need to be artificial here. Saying how you feel in your own style is always preferable to adopting a too-formal persona which can come across as stiff or stilted.

It's not about you: Your note should be about how your recipient's action is appreciated. Keep the focus on them. Try starting sentences with "you" instead of "I". For instance "You really made my day!" Instead of "I wanted to tell you how much that meant to me."

If you've gotten out of the practice (your mother would be appalled) of writing thank you notes, it might feel a bit awkward the first couple times you sit down to the task. But, if you want to make someone feel truly special, the hand-written thank you is hard to beat. In fact, I bet you can remember a thank note someone has written to you that still makes you smile. Try it and let me know how it goes!

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