1. Focus on the other person. 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. When choosing whom to thank, think beyond just those who have given you material gifts. What about the server at your favorite restaurant? 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 a gift specifically, 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 their gift or action is changing or simply improving your life.
5. Even 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”x5” 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.
John Kralik is the author of A Simple Act of Gratitude, a book that tells the story of an inspiration, the writing of 365 Thank You Notes, and how his life was changed by the people who received them.
Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life Magazine.