‘Thank you’ notes – archaic and unnecessary stealers of time, or still playing a role in connecting us socially as well as politeness?

I was reminded of them recently when the godmother of one of my step-daughters told me that she’d not given her goddaughter as much money as she’d first intended as a present for a significant birthday, because the recipient appeared to have forgotten how to write a thank you. (I spent years nagging them both to write thank yous, but even though they lived with me 50% of the time, as step-mum there was only so much I could influence.)

Was this lady harsh? I don’t think so, because in my own sphere of godchildren and children of close friends, I have in the past been irritated that no thankyou was sent to me. Ah – now surely a text message would suffice in this day and age, I hear you say. And often it does. But there is nothing like the thrill – and surprise – of opening up a letter of handwritten card of thanks – and I always keep such cards on a shelf in the kitchen for at least a week, since someone has put effort into writing and sending it – often, making the card, too. (And that doesn’t just apply to thank yous. My friend, Glenis, often makes her own Christmas cards and they are so beautifully crafted that I put them in photo frames and they come out with the Christmas decorations every year.)

So it came as no surprise to read an article quoting Moonpig and neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis, that ‘thank you cards can trigger reward centres in the brain for sender and recipient’. He goes on to say that instead of moaning that you should send a card, switch it to, ‘I like sending these cards’. I know I like to send them as well as receive them – and many are now stored in my memory box. When I’m gone, no doubt my family will throw them away as junk – but they may also derive some pleasure from reading them, and perhaps guessing why it was that the person wrote to me.

And in the meantime, I’ll continue to nag my grandchildren about the relevance and importance of thank yous. And if they really can’t write a card or a letter, then I suppose a text or email will suffice. Just.

Now, did I send a thank you note to friends for the party they held last week…?

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