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Perfect Thank You Notes: Heartfelt And Handwritten

John Kralik decided he needed a daily dose of gratitude, so he made a New Year's resolution to write one thank you note a day for an entire year. He wrote to family, friends, co-workers, and even his Starbucks barista ? and shares what he learned in his book, 365 Thank Yous.By NPR

After a particularly bad 2007, lawyer John Kralik decided to start 2008 with a serious New Year's resolution: to be thankful for the good things and people in his life. So he spent the next year writing one thank you note for each day ? to family, friends, co-workers, even the barista at his local Starbucks. Those notes make up his new book, 365 Thank Yous: The Year A Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life.

Why not just say thanks??Kralik tells NPR's Liane Hansen that it was his grandfather who fostered his interest in written gratitude at an early age.

"My grandfather, whenever you sent him a thank you note, he would always send you a silver dollar," Kralik explains. "And then if you wrote him a thank you for the silver dollar, he'd send you another."

The first thank you note Kralik sat down to write in 2008 was to his son. But when it came time to send the letter off, Kralik realized he didn't have his son's address.

"I called him to get his address," Kralik says, and his son replied, "Gee, I need to stop by and take you to lunch." Over lunch, Kralik's son repaid a loan of several thousand dollars. "So I wrote him another thank you note," Kralik says, "for repaying the loan and also for taking me out to lunch."

Short, Sweet ... And Written By Hand

In the early days of 2008, Kralik systematically wrote thank you notes for all of his Christmas presents. When he was out of gifts, he wrote notes to his co-workers. And when he ran out of co-workers, he was stuck.

"One day, I just couldn't think of anybody to thank," Kralik says. But on his way to work, he stopped at his regular Starbucks, where his barista greeted him by name ? "John, your usual venti?" ? and with a big smile. "I thought, this is really kind of a great gift in this day and age of impersonal relationships, that someone had cared enough to learn my name and what I drank in the morning," Kralik says.

Kralik lingered at the counter to learn his barista's name ? it was Scott ? and then set out to write him a simple note of gratitude. Scott was very happy to receive it, Kralik reports, despite the fact that at first he had assumed it was a complaint letter.

After the holidays, it's easy to view thank you note writing as a chore, but Kralik says that sincerity is the best approach ? he encourages people to focus on one true, meaningful sentence about the gift or the person. The notes don't have to be long, Kralik explains; sometimes limiting yourself to just a few sentences forces you to distill your sentiments.

Kralik wrote a simple thank you to his young daughter ? she was too young to read his cursive handwriting, so he read it to her out loud:

Thank you for being cheerful and happy when I pick you up in the evening. Sometimes I don't have a very fun day, but when I see you and we talk about things and have fun, I feel better. Thank you for being the best daughter ever.

Though it might be tempting to fire off a quick thank you e-mail, Kralik says true expressions of gratitude should be written the old school way ? with pen and paper.

"Things we write in cyberspace are so easily deleted and forgotten ... buried by the next 30 e-mails we receive," Kralik says. "In this day and age, a handwritten note is something that people really feel is special."

Kralik says he is often moved by how many people have saved his notes: "It's up on their wall," he says. "It's like part of you that's there."

10 Tips For Writing The Perfect Thank You Note
by John Kralik, author of '365 Thank Yous'

Thank you note.1. Focus on the other person. ?First, find their address, and write it out yourself on the envelope. ?Where are they living? ?What did they go through to give you this gift? ?When is the last time you did something like that for them?

2. Think beyond material gifts. ?What about the person who serves you coffee every day? ?What about the doctor who saved your life, the Good Samaritan who found your wallet, the teacher who takes an interest in your child, the special friend who listens to you, the person who loves you.

3. Mention the gift itself, hopefully in a positive tone, so they know you got it, and are not confusing them with someone else.

4. Write a sentence or two explaining how the gift is changing or simply improving your life.

5. If the gift isn't right for you, don't ask where the gift was purchased so you can exchange it. ?You can get value out of any gift, if only by donating to charity.

6. Think of ways you failed to thank the person in the past and remind the recipient how important a friend they are.

7. Don't make jokes unless you know the recipient has a good sense of humor, and you are sure they will get the joke in the way that it was intended.

8. Keep the thank you short and simple on a 3" x 5" note card, minus fancy frills.?That way, there's no room for anything except your gratitude. ?Replace thank-you e-mails with handwritten notes. With a handwritten note, a piece of you will be in the same room with the person to whom you write.

9. Try writing a first draft, perhaps in a spreadsheet. Not only will you benefit from the second draft, but you will always have a list of the most generous people in your life, and the reasons why you should be thankful for them.

10. Write a lot of thank-you notes. You'll get better.

365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life
By John Kralik
Hardcover, 240 pages
List Price: $22.99

Read An Excerpt



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