Modern Etiquette: Five Ways to Say Thank You in the Digital Age

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by Tanea Smith

From the time I was a little girl, I have been groomed for something. My mother gave me solid morals and a work ethic. To this day I mimic her strength, calm under pressure, and dogged determination. My sister gave me a single piece of advice that changed my life and that was “Just Follow Through.” But my grandmother, who recently made her transition, taught me etiquette. The basic things. Little girls should be seen and not heard. How to make a bed, hotel style. How to set a table. And then, there’s her signature piece that serves me to this day, “How to Write a Thank You Note.” My grandmother believed that sending a handwritten thank you was an absolute must. It is classy, thoughtful, and above all, it shows that you know “how to do it.”

Here are several ways to send meaningful thank-you notes in the modern world.

1. An interviewer: Things were very different in Corporate America 17 years ago when I started as a temp receptionist. Once upon a time you got the New York Times, perused the classified section, and went in for an interview face to face. Gasp! While I do realize that time and technology have intervened there is still no substitute for the personal touch. Always have a box of thank you cards in a desk drawer. Stay ready, and you don’t have to get ready. Once the interview is arranged, pre-address the envelopes. Find a quiet place to sit once you leave the interview and jot down a few key parts that stood out. Did you attend the same college? Do you share an interest in the same hobby? Find a common thread and cement the connection. In closing, reiterate your appreciation of the time you spent together and your interest in the position. Voila! Put a stamp on it, mail it, and head home for a cocktail. You have done all you can do.

2. A Mentor: My coveted “Front Row” includes 4 mentors. My professional advisors whom I can call on for guidance as I navigate the rough terrain as an entrepreneur. Scheduling can be tight and at times they may give me quick answers through email, I always express my appreciation with a note. I am sure to detail how much I grateful I am for their willingness to share their time and experience with me, how they have helped me, and more importantly how I plan to pay it forward.

3. A Caregiver: Towards the end of her life my grandmother was unable to care for herself. She was feisty to the end and refused to move into a nursing home. To strike a fair balance she remained in her own living quarter but did have a home health aide. Diana was a godsend. We repaid her kindness with a huge thank you note signed by our entire family as well as a monetary gift. A job compensates you in cash, however, Diana was brought to tears when she read our note. I know that made my grandmother proud.

4. An Assistant: Many moons ago when I first became an Executive Assistant my supervisor wrote me a note that read, “You are such a great assistant and I am grateful for all that you do. You have made my life so much easier.” This was one of many jobs that I’ve had for over 17 years. It did not pay nearly as much as what I’m earning now, however, the sentiment touched me deeply. I still have the note.

5. A Teacher: 31 years ago, my 2nd-grade teacher Ms. Bolden taught me that I was beautiful and unique and that there was nothing I couldn’t do. Each year I write a note to the teachers of my 2 children and thank them for their efforts. A note of recognition to a teacher makes the entire year worthwhile.

Always remember that even in the digital age we live in there will never be a substitute for a handwritten note. The most successful businesses must first make a connection.

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