By Penelope Folsom
There isn’t a better time than the holidays to review the rules of etiquette that we learned so long ago. Interesting how much of it has fallen by the wayside. Many of the rules however, should still be respected and followed regardless of how long they’ve been around or what the contemporary dictates of our electronic age seem to be. For example, handwritten thank-yous are a must:
- in response to an event at someone else’s expense, whether you brought a hostess gift or were effusive in your verbal thanks. This could include a day on someone’s boat, dinner at their home, drinks or dinner out that was someone else’s treat. Two days is de riguer and yes, it should be handwritten. This takes only moments.
- after receiving wedding gifts. It seems to be a bit lenient, but the prevailing opinion is to acknowledge gifts within a year. A conscientious couple, however, would make a concerted effort to issue their handwritten notes long before a year is up. Procrastination, as we well know, somehow just makes the job more laborious.
- upon getting holiday or birthday gifts. You should send thanks for them within one week and again, handwritten really is the acceptable way to do this.
And then for those of you who somehow let the thank-yous slip by, the Christmas greeting card is always a great vehicle for catching up, such as, “We so appreciated that you had taken the time this summer in include us in your picnic,” or, “I’ve now finished the book that you had sent for my birthday, which was so appreciated.”
And while we’re on Christmas cards, do you really think anyone enjoys receiving a card with a preprinted John and Mary Smith? Are you really so busy that you don’t have just a few moments so that each of the recipients can receive just a sentence as to what you’ve been up to, and signed with a real signature? If you have the time to address, stamp and lick each envelope, you should certainly have the few moments to personalize it.
Then there some second-level thank-yous one should do after:
- receving emails. Confirm or answer promptly. When an email is received, common courtesy dictates that one should respond. Realistically that should happen within 48 hours, if only to say, “I’ve received your email and will get back to you shortly.” How else would the sender know if it actually made it through, or like much of our email, did it end up in the spam folder?
- getting phone calls. These are similar. A maximum of 48 hours to respond, even if it’s the same trite phrase, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
There are certain cases when one is entitled to a free pass as in acknowledging acts of condolence, but again, the holidays are a great time to catch up with a note such as, “Wanted to thank you so much for taking the time … or, “We so appreciated the flowers.” Tardiness is, of course, excused or overlooked in this case.
Think back to the times when you’ve entertained or sent off a gift, never to get a response on the outcome. In this day of electronic wizardry, we’re never quite sure if some of our efforts haven’t dropped into the great beyond, never to be seen again.
To keep the task easier, keep a box of stationery, some all-purpose cards and a supply of stamps on your desk. It takes just a few brief minutes to pen a thank-you or a short note to someone who needs to be remembered or who has taken the time to do something meaningful for you.