Thanks Given Is a Gift Received
While we reflect this season on what we’re thankful for, let’s take time to appreciate the people around us who support us in myriad ways all throughout the year. From your friends and family members who celebrate your best days and love you on our worst, to your neighbors who cheer up your mornings with smiles and waves, to the coworkers who make Mondays feel like at least Tuesdays, they all deserve to be reminded of how important they are. However, tokens of gratitude needn’t be showy or elaborate—in fact, simple and heartfelt gestures often mean the most. We explore the Emily Post Institute’s website (emilypost.com) for just the right way to say thanks.
Friends and Family
These are the folks who know you better than you know yourself—and vice versa. Because you have been up hill and over dale together, the perfect way to thank them for their unconditional love is with an unrestrained letter of gratitude. No store-bought gift could be more special than your handwritten words recounting cherished memories (or mischief!) and recalling all the moments they’ve made richer simply by being present.
In the Emily Post Institute’s “The Importance of a Handwritten Thank-you Note,” Dan Post Senning declares the timelessness of the artform:
“In an increasingly informal digital world, continuing to pull out pen and paper is a way to distinguish yourself. The handwritten thank-you note speaks volumes simply as a medium and sends the message that you care enough to invest yourself personally in acknowledging another,” he writes.
Senning calls the handwritten note a “treasure in sealed packet.” Unlike emails and texts that will be deleted and forgotten, a personal letter can be tucked in a desk drawer or keepsake box and re-read on rainy days (both literal and figurative!). And who wouldn’t want a reminder of just how much they’re loved and appreciated?
Long letters full of special memories may not be appropriate thank-you gifts for neighbors, with whom you likely have a more casual relationship. However, if Phil next door saves your recycle bin from the crushing tires of passing traffic every Monday, or Sally across the street is careful to clean up after her dog when walking him in front of your house, it’s important to show thanks by matching the gestures when and where you can.
The Post Institute’s “Neighborly Manners” guide notes that “a smile, a wave, and a pleasant ‘hello’ are probably the easiest way to show neighbors that they matter to you,” but, “make sure you always say ‘thank you,’ and be willing to return the favor.”
Small, seasonal gifts are always appropriate, as well, and if you’re crafty, showing your appreciation doesn’t need to lighten your purse. A cute flower arrangement in a thrifted teacup, a homemade batch of cranberry muffins, or a pinecone-and-peanut-butter birdfeeder is all it takes to say “Howdy, neighbor! Thanks for shooing that skunk away from my front steps on Saturday!”
Striking the right balance of “earnest” and “professional” may seem tricky when it comes to thanking colleagues for their help or guidance, especially when you’d like to extend that gratitude to a manager (or to someone you manage). You don’t want it to seem like you’re trying to curry favor; nor do you want to seem like you are granting that favor to others.
In “The Workplace and The Holidays,” also by Post Senning, he cautions against large, ostentatious gifts of any kind, regardless of reason. For a supervisor, “a pooled gift from you and other employees that isn’t too expensive or personal is fine,” and for direct reports, giving gifts is, “certainly a nice gesture and a great way to acknowledge those who work for you. If you do decide to give gifts, give across the board.”
If an individual at work does a favor for you that makes your day (or saves it), acknowledge it with a thoughtful gesture that won’t cause discomfort. Great options include baked goods or other food items, cups of coffee from the corner café, and “favorite” office supplies (but not from the office closet). In some cases, an emailed note is just fine—if you’re specific, sincere, and don’t stray from your topic, your “thank you” message will come across loud and clear while remaining professional.
Every year, this season reminds us not to take the special people in our lives for granted. Slowing down and taking time to show our appreciation for them, though, is enjoyable for us, too. When you sit down to write an honest letter of gratitude, you get to relive those memories and savor that relationship; leaving your kind neighbor a jar of fresh preserves will make you feel good; and fostering positive relationships at work will only make the environment more pleasant for everyone. In this time of giving, put “thanks” at the top of your list—and when your gratitude is repaid, send it out again!
Rebecca Cuthbert lives, writes, and cares for shelter dogs in Dunkirk. She is a frequent contributor to Forever Young and Buffalo Spree.