How to write a thank you note

imo-blogFew things differentiate you more than the way you make other people feel when they interact with you. Many top CEOs and politicians make a point of writing personal notes to people who have done them favors. 

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By Tom Cox 

Few things differentiate you more than the way you make other people feel when they interact with you.

Many top CEOs and politicians make a point of writing personal notes to people who have done them favors.

A short, hand-written, sincere Thank You note is extremely powerful. They are increasingly rare, which makes them even more effective. And if you only want to write an email Thank You note, the formula below works just as well.

Here’s a way you can quickly and easily outperform 95% of your competitors — make a habit of writing Thank You notes. Here are some simple steps to follow that will make this quick and easy, until it becomes second nature.

thank-you-noteSincere Appreciation

First, notice what you’re grateful for. If you’re following prior guidance, you’re already ending each day writing down your victories and at least one thing for which you are grateful.

When you notice what you are grateful for, it makes you happier and helps re-wire your brain to notice the good things happening in your life.

Only when you feel true gratitude should you take the next step and write a Thank You note.

Three Sincere Sentences

Use these 3 sentences to write a brief and sincere thank-you:

  • (observation): state the OBSERVABLE thing they did with you or for you
  • (impact): state how their behavior had a positive impact somewhere, i.e. on you
  • (appreciation): state your appreciation of their character as revealed by their behavior

Here’s how to write each sentence.


Open by reminding them of what was observable (by one or more of the five senses) that they did.

Touch: your warm firm handshake. Vision: you looked me in the eye and smiled. Smell: the aroma of the food you prepared for us. Taste: again, food or beverage are most likely here. Hearing: what someone said, the sound of music, or someone’s voice.

Examples – “The other day when you invited me to your Rotary lunch, I remember you met me at the door with a firm handshake, and you looked me in the eye and smiled.” Or, “Yesterday I watched as the kids open the presents you sent.”


Elaborate on the Observation – which by itself may not have a lot of meaning – and explain what impact their action had on you (or on someone else). I typically use the word “feel” when describing impact, though any outcome or result is fine.

Examples – “You really made me feel welcome.” Or, “I wish you could have seen their smiles.”


Express your sincere feeling of gratitude. If you can, look deep into the other person and find the character trait that underlies their action. Start with “generosity” and see if you can find some other word that’s even more appropriate.

Examples – “Your Rotary is fortunate to have so warm-hearted a member as you, and I’m grateful to have your friendship.” Or, “I know the kids appreciate how loving and caring you are – as do I.”


Dear Gary:
Just a quick note regarding our meeting the other day – you took over an hour out of your busy schedule to meet with me, share your advice and your vast experience.
Your insights, particularly around the marketing side of selling a concept, gave me a lot to think about, and as a result of your input I know I’ll be doing a better job on this proposal.
I’m grateful to have someone so generous as you helping me – thank you.

The “appreciation board” – each employee puts up his initials when he notices another employee living the firm’s values, such as “going the extra mile.”

Other Ways to Show Appreciation

I was recently incredibly impressed with how welcome I felt when I walked in for a recent appointment at Fish Marketing in Portland, and was greeted by a sign that read “Fish Marketing Welcomes Tom Cox”

I have no idea why it struck me so strongly, yet it does. The gesture clearly didn’t take much effort, just organization and a little time. Yet nobody had ever done that for me before. It made me feel important and cared about. It made me want to send other people there, because I knew how they would be treated. And it suggested that this organization takes the time to get the little things right.

The employees at one of my clients expressed similar feelings when their managers created a bulletin board to capture acknowledgements by employees of each others’ contributions. This can be risky – what if people stop using it? – however in this case they have followed through, and I’ve gotten multiple reports of ‘difficult’ employees suddenly blossoming into happy productive teammates, now that they feel appreciated.

What can you do differently, all the better to show the appreciation you already feel?


Tom Cox is a Beaverton consultant, author and speaker. He coaches CEOs on how to boost performance by building workplace trust. Email comments to [email protected].