We are all emailing and messaging each other a zillion times a day, yet people seem to be writing fewer thank you notes than ever. In a professional setting, there’s no good reason not to write a short, substantive email* thank you note within 24 hours of an important meeting.
I suspect that people don’t send these for two reasons:
- Lack of discipline in choosing to write the note every time; and
- Lack of confidence than one can write a note that will productively add to the relationship.
On the discipline point, well, that’s up to you. But I’d suggest that not writing the note is akin to skipping an at-bat in a baseball game, intentionally double faulting once in a tight tennis match, or taking one fewer penalty shots at the end of a tied soccer game.
On the content of the note, writing a great note is an art, and like all art it takes years of work and lots of practice to master your craft. But writing a good note is not hard. A good note goes something like:
Thank you for meeting with me. I left our meeting feeling [ADVERB] because [SOMETHING POSITIVE THAT HAPPENED IN THE MEETING.] In fact, our discussion of [SPECIFIC THING WE DISCUSSED] really made me think about [SUBSTANTIVE NEW THOUGHT OR REFLECTION YOU’VE HAD SINCE THE MEETING.] As a result, I really hope that we can [DESCRIPTION OF WHAT THE FUTURE MIGHT HOLD IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS RELATIONSHIPS.]
Moving forward, I’m hoping that we can [1-2 NEXT STEPS AGREED UPON IN THE MEETING]. I’m also going to [SOMETHING SPECIFIC YOU ARE DOING TO SUPPORT THE OTHER PERSON/ADD TO THE RELATIONSHIP.]
Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
On the one hand, this looks like a MAD LIBs, paint-by-numbers undertaking. But of course it isn’t because first you have to distill:
- The emotional content of the meeting
- One specific highlight that is meaningful to both participants
- How the meeting affected your thinking
- What you are hoping to build together
- Agreed-upon next steps
- What you will do to contribute to the relationship, with no expectation of specific return
The heavy lift is this level of reflection. It’s the work that illustrates that you want to build something beyond a simple transaction. Reflecting in this way gives you and your counterpart a glimpse of what you could build together and, in doing so, you go way beyond gratitude.
The note itself, though, is short and sweet, and there’s no excuse for not writing it. Indeed, the faster you build towards fifty pounds of clay here the better.
* I have recently come off the fence on my internal debate email versus handwritten notes. For personal invitations (dinner parties, gifts, etc.) handwritten is still the way to go, but in a professional setting, time passes too fast these days to wait three or four days for a handwritten note to be delivered.