Thank you. It means a lot.

Professional Pathways - thank you

5 quick tips on ways to show gratitude and appreciation for people supporting you on your journey


I was raised by a mother who made me and my four siblings keep a running log of gifts we received at Christmas. We had to write down who it was from and a description. Before playing with our new treasures, we then had to write individual, hand-written thank you notes to every person who gave us a gift. As we aged we were expected to do the same for every birthday, graduation, wedding, and anniversary, as well as anytime someone put themselves out there for us – went above and beyond, or did something nice out of the goodness of their heart.

This training has stuck with me and I still practice it to this day. My methods and process have evolved and adapted for the times. Sometimes my notes are handwritten and other times they are emails, texts, direct messages, or even a thumbs up or smiley face. But the point is, there is ALWAYS a thank you.

Thank you’s are good for the soul. They serve the giver and the receiver. They show that you care and have respect for those who give you grace.

Giving thanks is easy. Ideally, it is also automatic. Everyone is busy – but we are not too busy to take a few minutes to show appreciation to those who give us their time, treasure, or talent.

I have two places I keep thank you notes I receive – 1) All hard copy, hand-written thank you notes are saved and preserved. They are added to a “wall of thanks” I created in my office. 2) When I first started teaching, I created an email folder called KUDOS. Every time I get an emailed thank you note, I save it in this folder. Over the past years, I have collected dozens of these pieces of appreciation. I treasure them because life can be very challenging. It is easy to succumb to sadness and fear or feelings of doubt. Having a wall of thanks or notes to remind yourself that you matter can make a huge difference in the desire to stay on track and keep going. So as a person who values receiving these notes of gratitude, I am committed to paying it forward.

Here are 5 low-cost and low-impact ways you can start your own practice of gratitude:

  • 1) Face-to-face

    For most of us, when we are physically with someone who gives us a gift, compliment, or does something nice – we say “thank you” on autopilot. That is terrific and we should keep doing that. So for those times when you are not in the same room as someone who has done something nice – you can always go with the face-to-face option. A quick pop-in to their office, a high five or hand-shake (adjust for #Covid19 as needed) when you see them next or go above and beyond with an invite to coffee or lunch as a gesture of appreciation. Phone calls/messages or video chat work well too!

  • 2) Hand-written

    I am personally a fan of the hand-written thank you note but recognize this might challenging for many. There is often a desire to be profound in the note. This is not necessary. A simple thank you for what you have done for me on a simple, even blank, notecard will suffice. I have a 1973 Royal typewriter so I love to write notes on it and give my thank-you’s a bit of flair and personality. I will also note here that although very nice, it is not necessary to include gift cards or other presents with your thank-yous. You taking the time and energy to send a note is more than enough.

  • 3) Email

    Thank you emails are not lazy. They, too, are appreciated. Try to give a bit more than “thank you” for the note if the person you are writing to went above and beyond. Add a sentence about how their act made a difference or helped you accomplish something. Providing context and meaning to your thank you shows the giver that you are paying attention and acknowledging their effort.

  • 4) Direct message

    Direct messages might be the most convenient given time or urgency. If connected socially, you can send a direct message through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Here you can add some personality and fun with emoji’s, bitmoji’s, gifs and memes. If it is appropriate to be more public with your thank you – you can add value by sending a tagged shout-out via social media so others can share in your gratitude and appreciation for others in your network.

  • 5) Text

    If all else fails and you are out of time and energy – sending a text is also nice and at a minimum, shows you acknowledge and appreciate the giver’s effort. This is most appropriate with friends, family, and close colleagues — individuals you have already an established connection.

One thing I hear a lot from family when they send a gift to one of my kids is “did they get it?” That tells me that the child did not send a thank you. Family members are inherently understanding. Not saying thank-you is not an unforgivable act. But if it’s not already in your auto-pilot, please consider adapting to a new auto-response of sending a quick text or direct message to the person who gave you a gift or did something nice. You would be surprised at the difference it makes for those who love and care about you.

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful humans can do for each other.”

Randy Pausch, professor – carnegie mellon university

These may be simple and obvious to some but many people neglect, forget, or don’t even consider taking these steps. Never underestimate the power of saying thank you. If you are not already in the practice of showing gratitude regularly because it feels awkward or time-consuming, I challenge you to start now. Consider it a stepping stone on your professional pathways journey. It is an easy way to make an impact, practice empathy, and demonstrate that you are the kind of person that will add value to an organization.


#KeepGoing #KeepGrowing

This post is part of Rebecca L. Cooney’s Professional Pathways – Never Stop Learning series. Check out more posts in the Professional Pathways category.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Cooney is a Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Director of Murrow Online Programs at The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She is also a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence for Natural Product-Drug Interaction Research. Rebecca has more than 26 years of professional experience. Her core areas of expertise include user experience design, integrated communication, brand strategy, and digital communications. She holds a BA in organizational communications and MS in communications and is the recipient of the 2019 Oaks Award for innovation in teaching, 2015 Scripps Howard Visiting Professor in Social Media, and 2014 Plank Center Educator Fellow awards.

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