Etiquette Everyday - Communications
Being Thankful: A Thank-You Note Q&A from Emily Post
We all have to write thank-you notes. Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone staring down your stack of cards and list of names. Before you start, remember that thanking people needs to be about just that: expressing thanks. So refocus, reorganize, and rethink the process. Get in touch with the sincerity of thanking people for thinking about you and sending you something — even if it’s a hot pink polyester sweater. At the Emily Post Institute, we’ve assembled some simple answers to the most commonly asked questions about the post-holiday thank-you note blues.
Who needs a note?
All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the goodies were opened in front of the giver—then you have the chance to thank them in person. An important exception: many of an older generation expect a hand-written note. Providing them with one is an appropriate gesture of respect and consideration.
Who should write the note?
The person who received the gift should write the note. Group notes are acceptable for Aunt Patty who sent the household a group present—just ask each recipient to sign. For couples, it’s perfectly fine to split up the notes for gifts you received together.
When should thank-you notes be written?
Write your notes as soon as possible, and don’t hesitate if you feel you’re late: a late note is always better than no note at all.
Can a thank-you note be creative?
Absolutely. Incorporating photos, children’s drawings—anything at all that compliments the sentiment is appropriate. Just remember to include a short written thank-you as well.
What about e-mail?
The reality of email thank-you’s, much like email itself, is a degree of emotional distance: an email to your grandmother is simply not as personal as a note written in your own hand. So if you have a casual relationship with the gift giver and you correspond via email regularly, an email thank-you may be appropriate. For most other people, the written thank-you is your best bet for an expression of warm, heartfelt thanks. The last thing you want is for someone to be disappointed when her hand-knit scarf is acknowledged with a loud, animated e-card.
How do I make writing thank-you notes fun?
We all love getting presents and are sincerely thankful, but some of us procrastinate terribly when it’s time to write notes. One friend, bemoaning the fact that she had to write not only her notes to far-flung family and friends, but also notes for her three children and her husband, hit upon a brilliant idea.
She had a party. On a Sunday afternoon in January, she invited her husband and their kids to the kitchen table. Everything was ready: note paper, pens, pencils, crayons, envelopes, address book, stamps and lists. The smallest (ages 4 - 6) drew pictures of their gifts, and Mom and Dad added dictated captions and thank you’s. The 7-8 year olds wrote one or two sentences, practicing new writing skills. The 9-and-olders were able to work more or less independently. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad helped with spelling words and addressing, and, in the quiet moments, wrote a few notes themselves.
When everyone was finished, there was hot cider and banana bread. My friend was amazed at how successful the afternoon was. The kids were involved, the notes were done and the family had time to be together and talk about their holiday, friends and relatives. And a new family tradition was born.
If you’re on your own, break up the list. Schedule a few different days to write your notes, and each time give yourself a little something to make it interesting: music, a glass of wine, your favorite radio show, a cup of tea—perhaps even some chocolate. Take the time to yourself for writing out thank-you notes: don’t try and wedge it in between laundry, a TV show and extra work from the office. You’ll be able to think more clearly and your focus will translate to the page. Above all, try to enjoy yourself. Giving thanks shouldn’t be a chore—and doesn’t have to be if you make the effort to keep it interesting.
Whether it is to a wedding, a dinner party, shower or gala event, an invitation comes with some important obligations. Here’s a quick guide to keep you on the guest list.
From the French, it means “Répondez, s’il vous plaît,” or, “Please reply.” This little code has been around for a long time and it’s definitely telling you that your hosts want to know if you are attending. Reply promptly, within a day or two of receiving an invitation.
2. How do I respond? Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation.
- RSVP and no response card: a handwritten response to the host at the return address on the envelope.
- Response Card: fill in and reply by the date indicated and return in the enclosed envelope.
- RSVP with phone number: telephone and make sure to speak in person – answering machines can be unreliable.
- RSVP with email: you may accept or decline electronically.
- Regrets only: reply only if you cannot attend. If your host doesn’t hear from you, he is expecting you!
- No reply requested? Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.
3. Is that your final answer?
- Changing a ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ is only acceptable on account of: illness or injury, a death in the family or an unavoidable professional or business conflict. Call your hosts immediately.
- Canceling because you have a “better” offer is a sure fire way to get dropped from ALL the guest lists.
- Being a ‘no show’ is unacceptable.
- Changing a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ is OK only if it will not upset the hosts’ arrangements.
4. “May I bring…”
Don’t even ask! An invitation is extended to the people the hosts want to invite—and no one else.
- …a date. Some invitations indicate that you may invite a guest or date (Mr. John Evans and Guest) and when you reply, you should indicate whether you are bringing someone, and convey their name.
- …my children. If they were invited, the invitation would have said so.
- … my houseguest. It’s best to decline the invitation, stating the reason. This gives your host the option to extend the invitation to your guests, or not.
5. Say “Thank You.”
Make sure to thank your hosts before you leave, and then again by phone or note the next day.
Business ~ Workplace Etiquette
Job Interview Tips 101
Your resume is perfectly printed on high quality paper and you've practiced answering every offbeat interview question your roommate can pitch at you. Here are a few more tips to prepare you for the big event.
Scout it out
There are several reasons to pay a visit to a company before you have your interview.
- You will know how to get there and how long it takes.
- You will see how people in the office dress.
- You will meet the receptionist and learn his name. This is also a good person to ask about the company in general.
- You can pick up any literature on the company that may be provided in the reception area: annual report, sales brochures, newsletter.
- You can find out the name of the person who will interview you, if you haven't been told already.
Be on time
There are no exceptions to this rule. If necessary, perform a trial run to see how long it takes to get to your destination. If an unforeseen emergency arises (the subway breaks down between stations), call as soon as possible: apologize, explain and offer to reschedule. Even that may not save the situation.
In the old days, a coat and tie or suit would usually do the trick. Now, offices run the gamut from shorts and sandals to "office casual" to traditional suits. Do your homework. Either call or visit to find out what the office dress code is. A visit will let you see what your future colleagues wear to work. A good bet is to dress slightly more formally than the average. In other words, if most people wear slacks and a sport shirt, wear slacks with a coat and tie. Everyone in coat and tie? Wear a suit. Everyone in a suit? Wear your Best Suit.
Piercings and Neon Hair
Yes, they're all the rage and you love your lip ring and purple streaks. And, yes, you have a perfect right to be who you are. Just remember, corporate America is not into fashion trends. They have just as much right to say that lip rings are not the image they are trying to project at XYZ Widgets. You will have to decide if your personal statement is worth more than the job. Of course, there are plenty of industries—fashion and music to name two—where no one would blink at piercings or creative hair.
Neatness is as important as wearing appropriate attire. Your shoes should be shined and your clothes should be pressed and spotless. No hanging threads, tears or missing buttons. Hair should be freshly combed and nails clean and trimmed. Women should keep make-up simple and hairstyle tidy. Use an extra swipe of antiperspirant, but lay off the cologne.
The Name Game
Nothing is more awkward than having people ask who you are! Introduce yourself to the receptionist and give your name! “Hi, my name is Mary Smith. I have a 10 o'clock interview with Jane Doe.” Make a note of the receptionist's name. Be sure to know the name of the person interviewing you. “How do you do, Ms. Doe, I am Mary Smith. Thank you for seeing me today.”
"Stand up straight, look 'em in the eye, say their name and give 'em a firm handshake,” was my Dad's recipe for making a good impression. If you are in doubt about this principle, practice with a friend. Have your friend look off in the distance and offer you a limp hand. Have your friend look at your feet and mumble something. Have your friend squeeze your hand and pump your arm enthusiastically. Now have your friend look you in the eye and give you a firm handshake. What do you think? Now, buy your friend a cup of coffee.
At the end of the interview, stand, thank the interviewer for her time, look her in the eye and shake her hand. A short note of thanks—nothing fawning—is also appropriate.
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