Why You Should Think Twice Before Saying ‘Thank You’ in a Business Email

By Ken Sterling

Be specific about what you’re thankful for.

We thank people all the time. We thank them in person, on the phone, and in emails. It’s a social custom. Good graces. Parents and school teachers tell their children all the time: “Mind your P’s and Q’s. Remember to say ‘Thank you.'”

Plus, experts explain that practicing gratitude is one of the best ways we become happier human beings. The question is: when you’re typing that business sign-off, is your gratitude just a platitude — or are you being authentic and really expressing thanks?

So many people write an email and sign off with something like this:

Thank you,

[Your name]

Avoid platitudes.

Thank you for what? While research has shown emails that express gratitude are answered more often, what about those emails that aren’t answered? Is it because your gratitude wasn’t genuine? Or maybe it was lost in a cliched email that looks like everyone else’s and you’re hoping your “thank you” makes up for it?

Inauthentic gratitude reminds me of how professors or emcees act when a veteran is in the group. At some point, when that hero’s military service is made known to the group, the meeting leader tilts their head, clasps their hands and says, “Thank you for your service…”

From the veterans I know, that gesture isn’t considered sincere. If we are going to thank veterans, be real. How about “Thank you for making sacrifices to protect our liberty and borders. I thought about joining back in the day and chickened out. I’m thankful for you and how you protected us…” With veterans or anyone for that matter who has helped us: be specific.

Be more specific.

Avoid writing gratitude platitudes in your email sign-offs if you aren’t thankful or there’s nothing to be thankful for. Instead, get more attention and make an impression on your recipient by adding a qualifier, like one of these:

  • Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to be of service.
  • Thanks again for all your collaboration on this with us. We understand it’s a distraction from your regular work and there are a lot of moving parts.
  • Mike, we appreciate your partnership and take our commitment very seriously to bringing you the best solutions for ABC, Co. We understand there is a lot at stake and our aim is to continue earning your trust.

I find when I take the time to be more specific about what I’m thankful for, I not only get a better response from a client or colleague, I build a better relationship with them. No one likes empty platitudes (including you, right?).

So the next time you’re closing an email, be polite and be specific. If you’re really thankful, say thanks. If there’s nothing to thank for, choose another ending. However, if you want to build a relationship add what you’re thankful for.