The POWER of the handwritten appreciation note

“Give honest, sincere appreciation.” — Dale Carnegie

Early in my sales career with Dale Carnegie Training, I found myself in a sales slump. For anyone that has been in sales for a while, you can probably relate. I was so far down I did not even know where “up” was. In fact, I was strongly considering quitting my job. In the middle of all this, I received a handwritten letter from my boss. It said: “Way to go, TIGER!!!!” The word TIGER took up a third of the page. This was followed by two or three specific examples of some positive things I had accomplished the previous week that I was barely aware of. I still have that letter from over 30 years ago! It was truly a defining moment in my career with Dale Carnegie.

Unfortunately, like many other practices from the “old days,” it seems that the handwritten note is slowly dying. I am talking about the one that is actually written, put in an envelope, addressed, stamped, and sent via the United States Postal Service. If it is replaced at all, it is with a text, email, Twitter or Facebook comment, or some other form of social or electronic media (and by the way, these electronic notes of appreciation are also going to the wayside).

In one of our training programs, we spend an entire session on the subject of giving honest and sincere appreciation. We stress the fact that “honesty and sincerity” is built on the evidence behind the comment. Without the evidence, it can fall flat or even be perceived as insincere and selfish. My guess is that many of you have been on the receiving end of a compliment that was really meant to get something out of you, not necessarily build you up. It does prove the point that sincerity is truly and only judged by the recipient.

Back to our training program. We go through a simple approach: Tell the person what you like and back that up with evidence. Rather than pay compliments on the superficial things, we emphasize that they concentrate on some aspect of the person’s personality. We practice this out loud in small groups. After that, we ask if there is someone outside the room, either personally or professionally, who is really deserving of positive praise, but for whatever reason has never heard it from you. At this point we hand out notecards and actually have them write a note of appreciation to that person. We then distribute envelopes and have them address them. Those notes are stamped and put in the next day’s mail.

Where it gets interesting is the following week when we ask our participants if they received any response to their notes. Here are just a few examples of what they hear:


“You made my day!”

“I had been having a really rough couple of weeks and your note really gave me the boost that I needed.”

“I showed your note to my husband. He told me how lucky I was to be working for a boss like you.”

“I knew I was on a pretty good team. Your note took that to a whole new, positive level!


“I can’t think of anyone who is as lucky as I am to have a sister like you.”

“You’re the best dad in the whole world!”

“When I got home from work, I saw the opened note on the kitchen table. When I went into the living room and my wife saw me, she was crying. I can assure you they were tears of joy. We’ve been married for 11 years, and this was a first.”

So, whether it is a simple “thank you” note or a note of sincere appreciation, do it in writing and put it in the mail! I can assure you that these notes are not tossed away lightly. In fact, many people have a special place where they keep them.

With that, I will end with one my favorite quotes from the writings of Dale Carnegie: “You have it easily in your power to increase the total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps, you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.”

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