Why Writing a Thank-You Note Should Be as Automatic as Brushing Your Teeth
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Adapted from The Emigrant Edge: How To Make It Big In America (Howard Books) by Brian Buffini. Copyright (c) 2017 by Brian Buffini. All rights reserved.
I remember the first time I was introduced to the phenomenal power of the thank-you note. It was 1992 and President George Bush Sr. was being interviewed about his career as congressman, director of the CIA, vice president and president. The interviewer asked a simple question: "What's the one thing you've done in your life to make you so successful?"
The President's response was so simple and profound it stopped me dead in my tracks. He said that for the previous 25 years he had written at least 10 personal notes a day to people he'd recently met, those who came to mind or correspondents who had written to him. Now, at the time of this interview, I was living in a little "white house" myself, and I believe that when people at the top of the ladder give you clues on success, it's a good idea to take heed. And so I did. I sat and wrote my first note. Twenty-five years later, I'm still writing them!
In fact, for the past quarter-century I have sent several thousand notes a year. I'm a prolific note writer to my clients, staff, family and friends. I firmly believe that the cumulative effect of all that goodwill over time has been one of the key ingredients for my success.
Personal notes expressing gratitude have incredible power. When people open their mail, a personal note is always the first thing they read. After all, it stands out among all the junk mail and bills! And in this high-tech, social media-driven world, I find personal notes are even more powerful and better received than ever before. I've often saved a meaningful note or letter that someone has written to me, and I know I'm not alone.
My whole family writes personal notes of thanks to people who have helped or inspired them. My daughter Anna, after becoming an international dressage champion, once wrote a note to a trainer, saying how grateful she was for her assistance and guidance. The trainer was thrilled to receive this letter, but she was also shocked. "Brian," she said, "no one has ever written me a thank-you note before! I'll never forget this letter."
This is the sort of positive impression that a simple thank-you note can have on someone. It takes just minutes to compose, but the impact can last many years. Inside the walls of Buffini & Company, we even have our very own card store, where staff can simply walk in and pick a card for free for any occasion. You can't put a price on the goodwill that departs our mailroom in thousands of personal notes and cards each week. We remind our clients every day that it's important to be intentional about expressing their gratitude toward their customers. Make acknowledging and thanking people part of your daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth or writing tomorrow's to-do list, it will become automatic. Over time, if you don't do it, it will feel like something's wrong -- as if you're walking around with bad breath!
I have hundreds of stories I could share on the power of expressing gratitude through a note. Here is just one:
It was Christmas Eve, 1999. As we tucked our four kids into bed, the phone rang. A lady introduced herself: "You don't know me," she said, "but years ago you sold my father's house." She mentioned the street where he had lived and suddenly it all came flooding back. In a flash, I remembered the day I first met her father. He had called me shortly after becoming a widower. His beloved wife of 46 years had passed away six months before and he was a heartbroken man, struggling to carry on without her. His daughter wanted him to move back east and live with her -- but he was unsure what to do.
The day I met him, I had a full schedule of appointments, but after speaking with him for a short while I canceled everything to spend more time with him. In truth, we barely got around to talking about business or putting his home on the market -- instead, we sat and he told me his life story. When I got back to the office, I wrote him a heartfelt letter telling him how much I respected him as a devoted husband and father. I wrote that I hoped to be privileged enough to be married for 46 years, and if I lost my wife I would be every bit as heartbroken as he was.
The reason his daughter was calling me on Christmas Eve was to let me know that he had passed away recently and, when they went to read from his personal bible at his eulogy, they found that the letter I had written him had served as a bookmark for his daily readings. It had been 10 years since I had sold that home. And in one way or another, he had read or looked at that letter every day since. You just never know what a word of gratitude or appreciation will do for the recipient.
So, it's fair to say that gratitude is good for business. But, better than that, it's good for you, it's a great way to live and it's the foundation for living the good life.
Related Video: The Four A's of Expressing Gratitude