The first thank-you notes I ever wrote were for Christmas presents. My mother, sister and I would sit down the day after Christmas with our boxes of notecards and lists of gifts. Everyone who had given us a gift received a handwritten thank-you note. This at first seemed like a daunting task for an eight-year-old, but as the years rolled by it became a routine to look forward to. Learning to compose a note that had some personality was the challenge. Penmanship was also important. Cards with mistakes had to be discarded and begun anew.

There are many times when writing a note of thanks is important. There is a certain feeling of warmth one gets from writing them. You should send a thank-you note when you are given a gift, sent flowers, asked to lunch or dinner, invited for a weekend, asked to a concert or performance or when someone does something nice or helpful in a business or social situation such as an introduction or letter of reference. I write far too few thank-you notes. However, I do make a point of phoning soon after an occasion such as dinner. People appreciate knowing that the effort that went into cooking dinner and the camaraderie of the time spent together with friends was genuinely enjoyed.

I find thank-you notes strengthen friendships and relationships, especially in business situations which are just budding. When someone extends themselves to celebrate a happy occasion, lend a helping hand, make an introduction for you or acknowledge a difficult time, take the time to write a note. It takes only a few minutes.

You can even buy notecards at the dollar store, so there’s not a lot of expense required to accomplish this mission.

In business situations, thank-you notes can be sent via e-mail. It is a matter of discretion, however, and a handwritten or typed note may serve your purposes better. Whatever you decide, be sure the note is sincere and includes a reference to the purpose of your meeting. If you are sending a note to an interviewer from whom you want a job, be sure not to send a gift. In most companies as well as in government, there are policies against accepting gifts.

The most important thing to remember is to say thank you often. There are so many more occasions to verbally express your gratitude to another person than there will be reasons for a handwritten note. Use the phone if you want to. Speak directly to the person to whom you are grateful. I know of no one who says thank you too often. Say it with a smile on your face and make direct eye contact. This will go a long way to show the respect you have for others and for yourself.