For just a moment, think about your typical communications with colleagues, clients and friends. If you’re like most legal professionals, these exchanges are increasingly conducted via email, text messages, SMS chat, social media and cell phone calls. Each of these communications technologies is easy, convenient and fast. But for communications that really matter, is any one of those “platforms” well-suited for conveying lasting messages of heartfelt appreciation? Sending a thank you note for meaningful interactions, both professional and personal, shows your appreciation for that individual’s time.
As our lives became increasingly dominated by technology, we place greater value on the hand-made, homemade, tangible items that we find emotionally resonant (or “high-touch.”) And in our interaction with colleagues, clients and friends, “high touch” communication shows up in the form of hand-written personal correspondence — typically, the thank you note.
Writing an effective thank you note is not a complex process, and if done well will make a good impression – specifically to perspective employers. While a thank you note can be a powerful tool, it can also have an adverse effect if it lacks in quality.
Importance of a Great Thank You Note
Truly effective “thank you” notes are all-too-uncommon. And if you ever have received a well-written one, you understand why these brief notes can make such a lasting and emotionally powerful statement.
In the world of legal professionals, the premier example of “thank-you power” comes from John Kralik, a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles. Judge Kralik’s adoption of a disciplined thank-you note “practice” is documented in his popular book A Simple Act of Gratitude (previously published in hardbound edition as ”365 Thank Yous”).
The book’s subtitle “How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life” says it all. Before being appointed to the bench, John Kralik was a struggling lawyer whose life (including his law practice, family, financial and personal matters) was falling apart. Judge Kralik adopted a daily ritual of sending “thank you” notes and cultivating a mindset of gratitude — practices that he credits with remarkable improvements in his professional and personal affairs.
(Your own motivations for stepping up your “thank you” habits may be considerably less ambitious and far-reaching. Nevertheless, testimonials such as Judge Kralik’s serve as useful reminders of how “thank you” notes can effect changes — both large and small.)
Once you’ve committed to writing more (and better) “thank you” notes, take these simple steps to support your efforts. First, buy an ample supply of high-quality cards. (Why purchase a lot of cards? So you’ll feel compelled to put them to use. What kind of cards? Judge Kralik recommends simple, off-white cards printed with only your name — so you’re forced to write the words “thank you” on every note.)
Second, handwrite — never type — your notes in ink. (People who commit to a regular “thank you” note practice often find themselves embracing the pleasure of writing with a fountain pen — which makes their notes even more individual and impactful.)
Third, make the content of your writing both specific and personal. Be sure to make it clear why you appreciate what was done for (or given to) you. And again, always remember to write those magic words, “thank you”.
Last, immediately undertake a disciplined practice of sending several cards every week. Set a goal, and then keep track of your progress. Before long, this “thank you” note habit will be helping you to enjoy more rewarding relationships with colleagues, clients, family and friends.