Expressing Appreciation: Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Thank You Cards

By Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Did you know that thank you cards have magical powers? They are literally the only piece of “documentation” that you could produce at work that will create a deeper connection in the moment, and every future moment in which a thank you card is read, glanced at, and shared. If you had the power to make someone’s day and remind them of their value in this moment, and future moments for the rest of their career, wouldn’t you get out your pen right now? So why don’t you?

Eighty-eight percent of people say their preferred way to be recognized is with a thank you card, so you can bet that it’s worth the paper and the 5 minutes it takes to document someone’s greatness. It need not be verbose. You don’t need poetic powers. You simply need to put a few words on paper that you might otherwise verbalize (or if you’re not a verbal thank you giver…and I hope you are working on that…these are the things you think in your head about someone).

How a Thank You Card Helps to Fix Culture Issues

I recently spoke at a conference where the most common question I got at break was, “How do you challenge a traditional command and control culture?” We’ll cover that article soon, as it’s a really good one, and for now, here’s what you can do: Be the difference. Write that card. Verbalize that you see someone beyond their job title, duties, and hourly wage. Be the one person who has acknowledged them, and you’re already putting a dent in the appreciation drought.

Even when appreciation is in ample supply, you can keep others inspired to continue recognizing others through a thank you card. They will get one or see one given and think, “Yeah, I haven’t written one lately; I should do that!”

How a Thank You Card Keeps You Resilient

When clients hire me to help boost resilience, connection, and mental well-being, I sometimes remind audiences that the thank-you cards they already have are powerful anchors for staying grounded and resourceful

My husband Mark reminded me of this recently. He had his video turned on and asked me, “Sarah, what are those cards in your book?” I was reading, and I had a whole bunch of cards that I use as bookmarks. I love to keep my thank yous and other special tokens front and center in my world by keeping them in books I am mid-read (and since I always have a few novels, psychology and biz books on the go, my cards have many places they get to hang out in!) 

You can check out the little video here. It got me thinking: What are the benefits to me of having those thank you cards in my life every day? Here are five.

Uses of Thank You Cards

 icon of a reminder bell ringingDaily Reminders

Without needing to work hard at it, you remember that someone values you simply by seeing the front of a thank you card. Open it up, and read the words that affirm it. Having a card as a constant throughout your day or week as a visual reminder that others value and appreciate you.

icon of stars and smiley faces with the words mood boosterMood Boosters

Pull out a few long-lost thank-you cards if you’re having a bad day. Maybe you have an email folder with emails of kudos. You could reread your LinkedIn testimonials, too. Revisit the words and let yourself feel good that you were valued in the past and by specific people, and therefore, you have greatness to give. Let it boost your mood through the words of others.

icon of a compassGreatness Recalibrators

If you feel you’ve lost your way, if you’re on a big learning curve, if there’s been a life or professional roadblock you’ve bumped up against, read the words of someone you deeply value and trust. Even if you don’t work with or are in regular contact with them, their specific words of your greatness can be a roadmap to return to a more resourceful place.

icon of a head with a low battery to indicate burnoutBurnout Busters

We talk a lot about self-care and combating burnout, and if you’re in the valley of it, it can feel like too exhausting a climb to get yourself out. I so get it. Been there and do not want the T-shirt. Picking up one thank you card from someone you’ve helped is a very small, easy gesture that takes almost no time but might make a small dent in the burnout burden. If you’ve got a box of them, turn off Netflix and binge on compliments of days gone by.

Deflation Diffusers

icon of a deflated balloonWhen you have someone who has given you negative feedback, your performance review was a shock, or you put yourself forward for a new job or promotion but didn’t get it, it can slice your ego like a knife. Don’t let it make you believe you’re not worthy. Don’t let that override your ambitions, intentions, or planned action. Remind yourself of the greatness you have already demonstrated to others through the words on the page, and then remind yourself of this, too: context impacts feedback. If you didn’t get that job, it might have more to do with who else applied than you not being good enough for the job. Remember how qualified you are, and then go for the next one.

The Power of a Thank You Card…Now

I hope this motivates you to write (so someone can experience your thank you cards in the moment and in the moments to come) and revisit your thank you cards. Will you comment on this post and let me know if it did?

Looking for more ideas on how to appreciate those around you? Check out these previous blog posts:

Disclaimer/Humble Brag Moment: 100% of this content was human-generated (by us folks here at Greatness Magnified). We are committed to authorship integrity and will inform you what percent, if any, is AI-generated.


“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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