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Ask the Thank You Diva:
Thanking a Friend after a Difficult Stay

Paulina asks the Thank You Diva's advice on what to write in a thank you note and, indeed, whether to send a note at all following a disastrous stay at a friend's home.


Dear Thank You Diva,

I really need your help! We've just come back from staying with a friend and her family. It was a disaster: my friend's husband got sick while we were there, then my kids broke one of my friend's expensive dinner plates, quarreled endlessly with her kids and generally made a mess of my friend's (very neat and tidy) house. What made it even worse was that the rain poured down for the whole 3 days we were there, so we were stuck inside getting on each other's nerves. I could clearly see the relief on her face when we left!

I did apologize to her at the time, but I still feel mortified and embarrassed. My gut instinct tells me not to contact her for a while until the memory has faded a bit. On the other hand, she did put up with us graciously and cooked for us several times, so I'm thinking I do need to send a thank you card.

Should I send a card? And if so, how should I word it so as not to make an icky situation even worse?

I've known her since college and I don't want to lose her as a friend.

Any advice very gratefully received.


The Thank You Diva responds:

Dear Paulina,

Thank you for your message and I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

Thanks for your message and I'm sorry you had such a horrible stay!

First of all, while I'm all for gut instincts (!), I strongly suggest that in this case you follow your head and send a note or card as soon as possible.

Sometimes a thank you card needs to do double if not triple duty, not only as an expression of gratitude, but also as an apology and a general relationship smoother and mender.

I'm guessing that someday in the future you and your friend will laugh about this disastrous stay, but now's probably not the time to mention that! Instead, see writing this note as a way of expressing appreciation for the good aspects of your stay (i.e. your friend's graciousness, and the meals you shared), and most importantly a way of keeping communication channels open.

Gloss over the bad stuff, mention the bad weather (after all, no one was to blame for that!) and make a sincere inquiry into how your friend's husband is recovering. Perhaps there is some positive news you can share about your kids?

For example:

Dear Helen,

I want you to know how much we appreciated your gracious hospitality last weekend, despite the bad timing, horrible weather and other difficulties. We are especially grateful for the delicious meals you cooked for us all thank you!

How is Justin feeling now? We do hope that he's getting much better, and we're all sending him lots of good vibes for a quick and full recovery.

Holly has started the dance class I told you about and loves it, and Josh has his first game of the season on Wednesday. We're looking forward to hearing from you about Haley's big trip...

Thanks for being a great friend, come what may. Let's talk soon.

Love, Paulina

Make your note, short, sweet and upbeat, and keep your fingers crossed that it will help to soothe ruffled feathers. Certainly, you will feel better and more able to face your friend again once you've written and sent this thank you note.

Good luck!

With my best wishes,
The Thank You Diva

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