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Knowing When to Say Thank You


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There are many occasions when it’s appropriate to send a thank you note or a simple gift as a token of appreciation to someone, whether the relationship is personal or professional. But it’s not always clear which situations warrant a thank you, and in which situations etiquette might require a gift.

Occasions When a Thank You Gift is Appropriate

First, be sure that the gift you choose is appropriate for the type of relationship you have with the person. For example, gifting a piece of heirloom jewelry might be appropriate, say, for someone in the family. But, for less intimate acquaintances, sending gifts to clients or a simple thank you gift basket or floral bouquet might be more a more neutral, appropriate choice.

If a person has made an especially generous wedding, graduation or baby gift to you, it is fitting for you to reciprocate with a gift, however small, to show your gratitude. The person who gave the gift is likely not expecting anything in return, but an appropriately priced gift should reflect your feelings about what you received.

After a profound act of kindness, as measured by you, it’s always appropriate to give a gift that lets someone know their actions were noticed or had some effect. Sometimes, during the hardest times of our lives, someone reaches out to us with empathy and quiet understanding. It can be during a serious illness, a death in the family, or during a time of personal crisis that these people touch us in meaningful ways that they may not fully realize. Don’t let the opportunity to let them know how much their actions, however small, may have had on you.

Often, it’s good form to send gifts to clients, either for important milestones such as an anniversary or particular success, with a little thank you for their continued business and a wish for their continued prosperity.

When a Simple Thank You Note Should Suffice

Less eventful occasions don’t necessarily require a gift, or one might not be appropriate given the event or your relationship with the person.

  • After a job interview (I recommend not giving a gift in this instance, as it can be construed as an effort to sway an employer with more than just your resume. ).
  • Thanking your child’s teacher, little league coach or tutor for the time and effort that he/she has put into helping your child learn, play and excel.
  • To acquaintances who helped with a move, party or volunteer event that you threw.

The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

The note that you write, whether or not it’s accompanied by flowers or a thank-you gift basket, is where most people drop the ball on thank-you etiquette. A short, handwritten note is always more personal than an email or even a phone call.

Send your thank you promptly. Granted, after a big event like a wedding or a new baby, people are going to cut you slack if there’s a delay in sending out thank you notes. But don’t let more than a month go by without sitting down to write them. After more than two months, people will wonder what took you so long to get around to doing it.

So if you when you feel like saying thank you just isn't enough, maybe next time when they least expect it.By sending a big or small, it's the thoughtful gesture that is remembered.


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