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Is the expression of “Thank-you” out of style?

Thanksgiving Day is a day dedicated to gratitude and thankfulness but are we truly thankful? Do we still know how to say the words “thank you?” I wonder.

The days of snail mail to reach out to friends and family are long gone. When’s the last time you received a handwritten letter or even a thank-you note? Even the flurry of post-events obligatory thank-you notes from weddings and holidays have thinned.

I don’t know about you but my physical mailbox has become a container for magazines, catalogs, and massive amounts of junk mail. I can only imagine the tonnage the black box will hold in 2012. But personal, handwritten letters and thank-you notes are the rarest of content.

Inspired by another’s gratitude

Earlier this week I read a post by a fellow blogger who woke up inspired to give a public thanks to those who had helped and supported his blogging and online business efforts over the last year. It was a nice way of thanking people he only knew online, so I thought I might do the same.

Since I’ve been trying to make an effort to incorporate keyword research into my recent online writing, I decided to be good and check out the Google Keyword Tool for appropriate keywords for an article on giving thanks. I am by in no way a keyword junkie or SEO master but I do try. I ran several permutations on the idea of giving thanks, saying thank you, etc. but each time I ended up disheartened to see that none of the keywords the Google tool offered up were ranking “high” in the search. Most were labeled low or medium. I started to wonder.

Do keywords reflect a shift?

The Google Keyword Tool is supposed to give you an idea of what all the people out there on the Internet highway are searching for by giving you the exact words used in a search. If the search terms are low or even medium, that implies there isn’t a lot of interest. (The tool was developed to assist people interested in buying ads but most online folks are able to divine keyword information that helps influence the search aspects of general online writing.) I continued playing with the words and phrases until I finally hit some “high” keywords and phrases. Every one had the addition of the word “gift.”

Plenty of “highs” for “thank-you gift baskets” and “unusual” or even “cheap thank-you gifts”. Even “appreciation” came tied to a gift. I confess, it made me wonder. Has everything in our culture been reduced to a material expression? Is it not enough anymore that we offer thanks to one another or have words completely lost all meaning and power? I don’t know. It’s just been an on-going observation.

Whether they’re showing a trend or not, the keyword results did provoke more thought about the whole idea of how we express our gratitude today. I mean…when was the last time you received a thank-you note, let alone a true handwritten one? Personal inscribed thank-you notes are rare and should be coveted. They’re not just expressions of thoughtless thanks but a gift–a gift of time, thought, and memory.

A thank-you note draws attention and signals to the recipient that the sender remembered an event or a gift, stopped what they were doing, thought about it enough to grab paper and pen, and composed the words to say thank-you. Who does that?

Where have all the thank-you notes gone?

I don’t know why the annual ritual of writing out thank-you notes for Christmas gifts ended but it’s clearly a ritual of the past. Once parents made sure all the gifts their kids had received over the holidays were followed up by a dutiful thank-you note. It was good training. It was a habit, a habit that at its root contained the impulse of expression linked to gratitude. Over time note sending dwindled, only the words remained…then a reduction followed to a nod, a glance, a hint of a gesture. The ritual’s remnants barely survive.

So what should we make of this current quest for thank-you gifts? Does it mean we are so thankful that we are certain no word, phrase, or note will express our deepest expression of gratitude? I doubt it. Often gifts are the casual toss-off remembrance during a time of family obligation, holiday celebration, or other supposed moment of note. How much thought is truly applied even to the gift-giving process? Will it slough off like dead skin, too?

Do words still have enough value to be a gift?

I guess the question is whether we are a culture that attaches value and meaning to the words we use or are we moving toward the need for an expression of gratitude to be coupled with a more tangible gift? I hope not. I hope that we have not so devalued our words that they have become meaningless.

How do you respond when someone says thank-you? Do you attach any meaning to it or is it written off as an obligatory cultural response ?

I received a thank-you card from a friend on the eve of Thanksgiving who actually not only took the time to find a card and buy it, but wrote several sentences inside reflecting on the value of our friendship. For me, it was priceless. No gift could have equaled the impact of this simple expression of heartfelt thanks.

It’s in that vein that I offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who have helped, supported, guided, and even chastised me as I continued down my writer’s path this past year. No list is ever complete and if I fail to mention you by name or group, please know it’s more the result of a failed synapse and total lack of brain chemistry than a lapse in memory or a failure to appreciate.

My thank-you note to my online friends, supporters, and encouragers

To Cathy Stucker, The Idea Lady, friend for years and one who always answered a stressed email and offered wise suggestions all year as I swam over to the deep end of online writing and dove into keyword research, SEO and all manner of arcane Internet things. Thank you for you help, support, guidance and precious “work days.”

To the RocketMoms and the Fresh Wonders,  my fellow writers at Squidoo: I so owe you for your valued insights, judgments, and non-stop help. You taught, helped, guided, challenged and raised me from “squidlet” to “Giant Squid” in a matter of months–and you made it fun. Without you those goals would never have been attained. There are too many of you to give a personal shout-out, so I hope this will do for now.

To David Risley for his honest portrayal of what it takes to master online writing and who constantly evolves and lifts the rest of us with him.

To the writing crews at WizzleyPro Articles and SquidLog who helped, supported, and guided me during my online efforts on a new site. You know who you are.

To Lisa Morosky who helped me leap over huge hurdles. You were a gift in a time of need and remain a gift of help and support.

To Kay Adams at the Therapeutic Writing Institute and all the students and instructors for a great fall term. I’m looking forward to our continued journey.

To Shane Ketterman, a new online friend and a writer who is not afraid to think deep and write long.

To Jim Connolly, whose blog post  is the inspiration for this rather lengthy thought process and thank-you note.

To this blog’s readers and all the DWP’s FB Fan Page readers and writers who have stayed the course this year, I appreciate you more than you know.

To all my readers here, there, and everywhere–online and in print–who read my words and hear my thoughts–and sometimes tell me what they think….

–and to my bevy of writer friends everywhere who do the same.

THANK YOU! — Vikk

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  • http://jimsmarketingblog.com Jim Connolly

    Hi Vikk.  It’s always good to know something I write inspires others to share their ideas.  Thanks for the mention.

  • Arthur Plotnik

    And thank you, Vikk, for this post and all you do for writers.  Lots of weddings this summer, and happily, the thank-you notes (for modest gifts) brightened our snail mail. In fact, snail mail is a misnomer for paper mail; the truly slimy stuff is the generic digital message, a tossed-off email or text when a thoughtful, tactile connection would mean so much more.

    Wishing you and your readers/followers a gladsome, effervescent, larky, festal holiday season.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk Simmons

    Art, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by, read, and comment on my post. You are your splendicious self…as always. I like your flip-flop on snail mail. Ready to lark?

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk Simmons

    No problem. I love it when someone sets my cogs in motion. :) Thank you. 

  • claudine

    Thank you for everything, Vikk!
    By the way, did you search for the word “gratitude”? I think it may be the new “thankful” keyword.

  • http://www.downthewriterspath.com Vikk Simmons

    Thank you, Claudine. Actually I find a distinction between the two and wanted the older more action-oriented expression rather than the one that is more aligned with a state of being. I also think there’s a subtle difference in being thankful and feeling grateful. 

  • claudine

    I think you’re exactly right, Vikk. “Thank you” is more active. This may be why our lethargic society has switched to “an attitude of gratitude” instead. :(