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The Magic Of A Thank You
By Jane Watson   Printer Friendly Version

Whenever I conduct a workshop in business writing, I remind people to add the words of courtesy to their letters and memos, words such as please, thank you, I would appreciate, etc. And then I wait for it. Someone will invariably say, "I thought we were supposed to be clear and concise in our writing nowadays. Isn't saying thank you adding unnecessary words?"

No. No. No.

The 90s may be the lean and mean /do more with less society, but things still run a more smoothly - and we project a better personal image-when we let our warm, friendly side show.

A good example of this-the son of the friend of mine was walking back to work after lunch and happened to see a zippered briefcase lying in a snow bank. Being a bright, curious fellow, he opened the case and found inside a large number of credit cards, car and house keys, notes on staff and projects, computer disks-one marked curriculum vitae-and, of course, a planning diary. (There was no money.) Back in his office, he tried for the remainder of the day to locate the owner, whom he identified as the senior manager of a large, international accounting firm. However, the man was unavailable.

It being Friday, my friend's son took the case home with him-he lives with his parents-and after some detective work tracked the owner down over the week-end. On Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. the man appeared at my friend's door demanding his case. (The son had already left for work.) She handed it over to the man and that was the end of it.

The owner never bothered to say thank you to anyone. The son was not expecting a reward-he hadn't been brought up that way-but a thank you would have been nice. Perhaps the man thought my friend's son had stolen the briefcase. But then why would he go to all the trouble to return it?

The interesting part about this story is that the man has given himself and his company an advertising plug-and probably not the one he wishes. My friend knows a lot of people and this is a great story. It comes up often. Although she doesn't mention the man's name, she does mention his company and there is always a gasp of surprise. Who would think that such a well-known accounting firm as this would have in its employ a senior level manager so egotistical and so lacking in common sense and courtesy that he couldn't even offer a good Samaritan a thank you. In fact, now whenever I-and I am sure a growing number of others-see an ad or a reference to this organization, the first thing that pops into my mind is this story.

On a more personal tone, I find people on the internet lacking in courtesy. Perhaps they are too busy.

Because of my books, web page and workshops, I am often contacted by people seeking assistance in business communications. One woman-I had never heard of-sent this abrupt message:

I have to write a letter of recommendation. Send me all your samples. Send them immediately.

(When you are e-mailing someone for the first time, it is always best to start with how you got their name and then follow with the request politely phrased. People forget that when using the written word, voice inflections are missing and often times the statement is interpreted harsher than intended. It may turn your reader off.)

I can't count the number of times, I have spent time answering a stranger's request and then never heard whether the information was useful or appreciated. Many of my colleagues have complained about the same thing, and some are now saying they will ignore all requests for assistance.

But sloppiness in the courtesy field is not limited to the internet. Another friend was asked by an organization to donate twenty copies of her latest book to be distributed at their conference. She shipped the books off at her own expense and never heard anything. No one called to thank her or to even say they arrived. Will she donate books again? Maybe, but certainly not to that group.

Remember, when people go to the trouble of helping you-whether you are meeting face-to-face, by letter, phone or e-mail-it is important to let them know you appreciate it. It takes such a little effort to create goodwill and build a more co-operative, friendly world.

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