Is the “When” of a Thank You Note More Important than the “What”?

One of many memorable moments from my high school years was an explicit lesson  about writing “thank you” notes from Mr. Sand, the Student Council Faculty Adviser.

As Senior Class President, I was responsible for organizing the high school’s annual blood drive. I thought my job was done after the Red Cross trucks pulled away from campus, and the gym was cleaned up. But as I was heading out the door, Mr. Sand came up to me and said, “Good job, Emily. Now all you have left to do is to write thank you notes.”

I quickly realized that there were many people to thank–the custodians who helped with the clean- up, the Red Cross staff who organized their team to come to our school, the administrative assistants who helped to publicize the event, and so on.

Then Mr. Sand added: “And don’t forget that the most important part of a thank you note is not what you say, but the fact that you send it right away.”

Ever since that encounter, I always have had a “thing” about sending thank you notes right away. It’s not like I actually am great at sending immediate thank you notes, but the more time that passes between my receiving a gift and my sending a thank you note, the more awkward I feel about the whole encounter.

Honestly, as a thank you note recipient, it really doesn’t make a difference to me if I receive the note from somebody right away or months down the line. In fact, sometimes I like delayed thank you notes because by that time, I am likely to have forgotten about the gift that I gave in the first place, and the delayed thank you note reminds me of the warm-fuzzy feeling of the gift giving all over again.

What do you think? Does the “when” of a thank you note matter more than the “what”?

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