How to Acknowledge a Thank You Note

When someone sends you a nice thank you note, what is the proper response? Don't get caught in the endless cycle of "thank you"'s! 

Lisa B. Marshall
3-minute read

A listener once contacted me in response to my Smart Talk Success post, How to Accept a Compliment with Grace. Her question was a little different, but it was an important question. She wanted to know how to thank someone who has thanked you.

The short answer? You don’t. Many people have a problem with this. “Thank you for saying thank you for the thank you!” It can go on forever. But at least in American culture, you do not thank a thank you; you acknowledge. And there’s a difference.

If you receive a really nice thank you note, it’s especially hard to resist the temptation to thank that person back. So be creative in your acknowledgement instead.

When someone sends you a thank you note in the mail, it is a simple but important act of courtesy (though, unfortunately, it's rarely done anymore). You smile, and next time you see the person, you can say, “I got your lovely note! I’m glad you liked ________" (the gift, etc.).This is an acknowledgement. If someone emails a thank you for something you did for him, a simple, “Glad I could help!” is sufficient acknowledgement. If you receive a thank you and a gift card from a boss for a job well done, again, acknowledge the gift—perhaps with, “I am glad I was able to provide valuable input on the project.” But it’s an incentive, a reward for a job well done. Do not send a thank-you in return.

SEE ALSO: Modern Mentor's How to Self-Promote at Work Without Feeling Icky

If you receive a really nice thank you note, it’s especially hard to resist the temptation to thank that person back. So be creative in your acknowledgement instead. Recently I had guests stay in my home for two nights. They were a family of five whom I had never met before. I had met the husband one time over 20 years ago, as he is the cousin of my late husband. Anyway, a few weeks after their visit, they sent me a wonderful, handmade thank-you card. The image on the front was really nice—a signed painting by their youngest son (10 years old). I decided to keep the picture, so I cut it down to just the painting. I then put the painting up on my gallery; I keep a string with clips on the wall in my office for pictures that I like or pictures that my kids draw.  I took a picture of the image on the gallery and sent the picture as a text message to the people the family that sent the note.  It wasn't a "thank-you" for the thank-you. It was an acknowledgement that I appreciated the extra effort of the handmade thank you.  

So the bottom line is: acknowledge a thank-you. Mention that you received it, particularly if the thank you went above and beyond. But there's no need to send a thank you in response to a thank you. 

RELATED: Modern Mentor's You've Been Writing 'Thank You' Notes All Wrong

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence. If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview, and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.