Ask Amy: Millennial Wonders If Thank You Note Is Old-Fashioned

By Amy Dickinson | February 22nd, 2021

Is this age-old form of gratitude becoming outdated?

Millennial writing a thank you note

Dear Amy: My grandmother is a traditional Southern lady who drilled her grandchildren on the importance of a heartfelt, promptly sent thank you note after receiving a gift or kind gesture.

I’m recovering from surgery and many people have been kind enough to bring me a meal as I recuperate.

I like letting people know how their kindness has blessed me, and I usually have a note in the mail within the week, but often the response I get to my note is an uncomfortable, “You didn’t have to do that!”

It appears that this courtesy may be viewed as being overly formal and may even cause embarrassment to the recipient.

I’m a millennial and many of my peers don’t send these kinds of notes.

Have the rules changed?

Are thank you notes still the way to go when expressing gratitude, and if not, what is the best way to express thanks in these increasingly informal times?

— Grateful Millennial

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Dear Grateful: When you write to someone, a timeless experience unfolds.

There is the act of writing itself, but also the “float” of a couple of days when the stamped message is traveling (literally, not virtually), being delivered (thank you, mail carriers!), opened, and enjoyed.

The rules have not changed. The “rule” being that when people extend themselves through acts of kindness, they should be thanked.

Some people snap a photo or video and post their thank you on social media as a public gesture of thanks – and in this Instagrammy world, this also has the added social benefit of reminding their followers that the giver is generous, but also that the recipient is “so blessed!” (and deserving). This is somewhat show-offy, but it is what people do.

Others will text or call.

But the handwritten note remains the gold standard of gratitude-expressing.

Being told, “You didn’t have to do that!” is vastly different from, “I wish you hadn’t done that!”

In a semi-clunky way, your friends are acknowledging your gracious gratitude and the lovely old-school manners that your grandmother drilled into you.

You aren’t embarrassing them – you are inspiring them.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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