Treating People Well: The Extraordinary Power of Civility at Work and in Life

Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard | Gratitude

Why we love it: This guide to civility and social skills was written by two White House Social Secretaries who worked under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Their experiences taught them a fundamental lesson—everyone is important and everyone deserves to be treated well.

From pages 206-208:
“Here are the elements we believe distinguish a great thank you note from a perfunctory one.

Open with a splash. Don’t lead with Thank you for the… Not only it is unimaginative, but it can also leave you struggling for what else to say. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy always began beautifully. One note to her decorator Richard Keith Langham started out, What an eye you have—and how lucky I am to be its beneficiary. It’s best to write in the same way you speak—without formality. Some examples of opening lines: You are so kind to think of me at Christmas!; I cannot tell you how much I appreciated the beautiful [fill in the blank].; Last night was the most fun I’ve had in forever. What an amazing evening!

Show enthusiasm. After the opening, include a line or two describing why you liked the gift or the party’s theme. Then make reference to the thoughtfulness of the individual or her cleverness in coming up with I wore the tie twice last week and I’m wearing it as I write, or I may never forget the sight of that enormous flaming cherries jubilee as you brought it out of the kitchen. It was the most spectacular way to end an unforgettable meal.

End thoughtfully. Saying that you hope to see your benefactor soon is a friendly touch; it shows that you enjoy his or her company. And now say thank you. Always use a closing phrase that has some warmth or meaning, such as Fondly or Warmest Regards.

Just write it. The most important thing about a thank-you note is to send it. Not sending one creates an uncomfortable situations for the gift giver. It forces her into the awkward position of trying to find out if you did get the gift, without appearing to be fishing for a thank you.”