I’ve written posts at The Appreciation Factor about why you should write thank you notes, and provided tips on writing business and personal thank you notes. However I’ve recently been asked about what to do when you know you should write one, but aren’t 100% thankful.
You know the feeling, you know you should say/write a thank you (note) but you feel completely ungrateful, have nothing nice to say or simply feel stuck because the outcome/gift is not something you expected or one that you’re overly happy about. It’s a conundrum for sure, but no fear, I have some tips to prevent failure.
Before we get started, I have a couple of questions.
1. Are you really not grateful for the gift/opportunity?
2. What is motivating that feeling? (e.g., “I hate the (insert gift item)” or “the opportunity isn’t for me/a fit.”)
Do any of these sound familiar? Being faced with this scenario can be challenging I know, but first and foremost you SHOULD NOT FORGO writing a thank you note. (Yes I did say “write” as in handwritten.) To be successful in these situations, I think all it takes is changing your perspective and thinking about the meaning or effort put out by the giver versus your view as the recipient. This works for both gifts and opportunities.
On the Personal Side
Gift: In the example of the gift. At one time or another we’ve all received something that we really didn’t care for. I had one friend who always sent me socks, (you know the kind with pictures/designs on them). She loved them and thought I’d love them too, but they really weren’t my style. For you, it might have been a sweater, hand knit “especially for you” by an aunt or grandmother.
While you may not have cared for the gift, the important thing to think about is the intention and care behind it. The gift giver was likely very excited about the gift and likely envisioned how happy you would be to receive it. Your aunt or grandmother could have spent hours picking just the right yarn and pattern, not to mention actually knitting it, just for you. Yes, you may never want to wear/use it, but it’s better to focus on the good intention behind the gift. THIS is what I recommend you focus on when you set about writing the thank you note. You can use phrases like:
I can tell the amount of care and time that went in to making this ______ especially for me. It was very thoughtful of you.
I love that you took the time to pick out something with me in mind.
Or simply Thank you for being so thoughtful/thinking of me.
In all of these examples, you’re focusing on the person who gave the gift and their thoughtfulness, time, intentions, and love. See, you didn’t have to talk about how you were going to wear it!
On the Professional Side
Interviews: Again, you should ALWAYS write a thank you note for every interview. However, I’ve interviewed and left feeling like the job just wasn’t for me, OR that I really didn’t want the job, but it felt like the interviewers really liked me. Perhaps you’ve been there. You’ve interviewed for a role, but cannot see yourself working in that setting. Another scenario, you really liked the interviewer a great deal, but the job just wasn’t a fit. (You know that if the situation were reversed and you loved the job, you could focus on how your skills could help solve their challenges, or why you would be a fit and how much you wanted to work there. There would likely be lots to say in your thank you note.)
When I’ve experienced these feelings, I’ve left worrying how I was going to ever write a thank you note. I don’t want to lead anyone on, but I also don’t want to burn a bridge should there be a better fit in the future, even with the interviewer in a different setting. In these cases, I’ve focused on the time and consideration I was given, as well as the opportunity I received to interview. (Remember, not everyone gets to interview for every job, so clearly they saw something special in you.)
If it helps, think of it this way. If you hadn’t interviewed, you may have never found out that it was a fit until you were in the position. You may have never found out that the hours were too long, or that the boss’s management style wasn’t in sync with yours, or even that the goals of the company were not what you’d identified in your research. Aren’t you then grateful for the chance you received to learn more and make a more informed decision? Probably… I therefore offer these suggestions when writing your note:
I really enjoyed meeting you, and was impressed by your ______ accomplishments… (if you liked interviewer but perhaps not the opportunity)
Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience working at/on __________ and for your consideration.
I learned a great deal about _______ from our interview and am grateful for your time and consideration for __________ position.
I’m sure you can think of others but you can use these examples as a start.
Are all/any of these responses or ideas disingenuous? I don’t think so. By changing the perspective, what you feel still likely contains gratitude, but you’ve reframed things to focus on the intention of the giver, or the opportunity you were given to make an informed decision. Plus you’re still formally recognizing another for their help, their thoughtfulness, and their time, and everyone likes to be recognized or thanked.