The Power of a Thank You Note

Today I had a busy day that was marred with the everyday difficulties of professional life in Ghana – first AC not working, then light off and AC and Internet not working and the battery slowly dying on my laptop…and finally  – light is back! –  but now Internet is not working! I wanted to cry. But instead I opened this envelope my colleague Kobina had given to me earlier in the day.

It contained a beautiful card with a little bird on it and inside a thank you note.

Immediately, my mood changed from deeply sour to quite happy – after all something I had done had influenced another person to the point of writing me a note to say thank you!

It reminded me of the wonderful story told by my new boss Dr. Marcia Grant  as part of giving a commencement speech at her Alma Mater, Swarthmore College, in 2007:

“It began in the spring of 1999. I was asked to visit Princess Lolwah al Faisal in Jeddah, as part of a team of senior academic administrators, to see how we could help start a liberal arts college for women, the first institution of its kind in Saudi Arabia. After our visit, we submitted a 20-page proposal, with important-sounding recommendations, and a five-year implementation time-line – and it was rejected!

I felt disconsolate, as I knew intuitively that I had the skill-set that the Faisal Family needed to establish Effat College. So I did what my mother had always taught me: I wrote a thank you note. In a single page I drew up my vision of the college. What I learned later was that there was no one in Jeddah qualified to interpret the jargon in our first official proposal, but that my simple thank you note showed my willingness to help the Princess.”

Fittingly, Grant ended her speech with encouraging the graduates to remember to write their thank you notes. That is excellent advice. However, in addition to that, I’d hereby like to encourage my readers to respond to the thank you notes you get and tell the writers of those notes how your day was turned around because of their thoughtfulness. Or as my mother-in-law often says:

“Thank you for thanking me!”