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Thank You for Nothing

I know. These days, we don’t have a lot of reasons to be thankful. The employed human is becoming an endangered species. If you do have a job, seeing a bump in your paycheck is about as likely as running into a dodo. (In fact, if you did get hired, you probably have run into a dodo. How better to describe any boss who is dumb enough to hire you?)

But let’s not be negative. Let’s be “glass is half full” people, even if it takes knocking back a full glass or three of Jagermeister to come to that rosy conclusion. Certainly, the friendly folks at Dale Carnegie are positive. In fact, they sound positively ebullient in their recent electronic billet doux on the subject of “The Lost Art of the Thank You Note.”

“Writing a sincere thank you note is one of the professional skills that can make a lasting, favorable impression,” the Carnegie crew believes. “People like being appreciated.”

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This may be true, but how would we know? Appreciation is in short supply in companies today, and to get a decent dollop, you have to do something exceptional, such as entering a burning building to save the boss’s beloved bichon. Still, I’m not sure even that act of heroism would put a hand-written thank you note in your inbox. Considering your management, you will probably have to give up vacation days to make up for the time you spend in the burn unit. Which makes me question whether it’s worth it to set the fire in the first place.

The trick of writing a successful thank you note is to “give honest, sincere appreciation.” This is not easy to do. Personally, I can be honestly insincere, or sincerely dishonest, but that’s about as far as it goes. Honestly. Sincerely.

The basic rule for writing a thank you note is to use pen and paper. My question is — what is this paper stuff, and where do you find it? With most offices hell-bent for going paperless, it would be easier to write the darn thing on papyrus. If your ecologically correct office mates would shun you for using a piece of paper, try writing the thank you on the back of a 20-dollar bill. There might not be a lot of room for ruminations, but, trust me, your appreciation will be appreciated.

Rules include “Greet the Giver.” The Carnegie clan prefers a formal greeting, using “Dear” in front of the recipient’s name. This is an archaic form, and I suggest a more contemporary, “Hey, Dude,” or “Wussup.” This will make you appear as a modern, with-it sort of person, which is important, since the entire purpose of sending a thank you note is not to “create an expression of a heartfelt sentiment,” as the ivory tower types at Carnegie seem to think, but to impress the recipient so you can get something off them in the future.

You are also required to discuss how you will use the gift or service for which you are sending the thank you. For example, if you are unlucky enough to be given a book, Carnegie suggests language such as, “I started to read the book immediately and have found many great ideas already.” I recommend that you be even more specific. In the case of a book, you might add, “It is very effective for crushing bugs, and I can use it as a door-stop for my room so I won’t be disturbed when using something I really enjoy, such as video games or DVDs.”

Carnegie calls for a second thank you as you reach the end of your note, since “it’s not excessive to say thanks again.” If it’s not excessive to say thanks twice, why not say it three times, or 10 times? Why not cover the entire note and the envelope with thank you’s. “Thank you for the gift.” “Thank you for making my life worth living.” “Thank you for proving the universe does have good in it.” And most important, “Thank you for being you.”

All these thank you’s will make you feel sick to your stomach, and you’ll hate yourself when you pop the envelope in the mailbox. (Don’t worry about a stamp. People love to pay postage due, and the post office will thank you for the support.)

You can also thank Dale Carnegie Training for all these good ideas, or you can thank me. And if you don’t have a 20 to scribble on, a 50 will do.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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