“The retro art of expressing thanks or congratulations or regret with a handwritten note is the sure way to secure another’s attention.”
– Mitch Thrower (author, entrepreneur, and 22x Ironman triathlete)
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how we do or don’t communicate.
Email bugs me. It’s too easy to ignore, too easy to pass the buck, and if we really get down to it, most of it isn’t meaningful.
Texting isn’t much better.
And phone calls…they seem to be going by the wayside as an entirely new generation emerges with an unapologetic bias toward answering texts and emails, but not the ringing of the phone. (Perhaps their various ringtones get confusing after a while…)
Whatever happened to the handwritten note?
Interestingly, I stumbled across some recent discussion in the media about handwritten notes. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and others have been running a few OpEd pieces about the value of the handwritten note, but I think they’re missing the point. Sure, there’s certainly value in writing a handwritten note as a follow-up to a job interview. But job interviews are about work – not life. What about the really important stuff?
The point is, the real value in handwritten notes is not what they can do for you – rather, what they can do for others. Unlike email, they’re special. They’re unique. They last. They’re easy to hold onto and cherish. And they’re personal. And the reality is that they really don’t take that much longer to write than a text or email.
In any given day, I probably get 50-100 emails…maybe more. I don’t really bother to count them. It takes enough time to identify and answer the important ones, while deleting the others.
I can promise you this, though…if the mail arrives with what appears to be a “real” letter or note, I read it first.
And I keep them. In fact, I have a sock drawer full of treasures. Most of them are keepsake cards and notes from my bride and our princess, but a number of them are from others, too.
Notes of thanks or encouragement from co-workers. A handful of notes from my closest friends. Birthday and holiday cards from my parents and in-laws. A special note from a buddy with a copy of the eulogy he delivered for one of our pals who departed far too early. A picture of a team member’s infant child and the thank you sent to all who reached out to them after their loss. Yep, this stuff is about life – the really important stuff.
I try to keep a ready stock of good note paper and/or cards on hand at home and at the office…just to be sure I don’t have an excuse not to write when the thought crosses my mind. And, when the opportunity presents, I try to stop for a moment to jot down a quick, personal note to someone – usually to thank them for lending a hand with a particular challenge, to encourage them as they struggle with one of life’s hurdles, or just to say hi.
Actually writing isn’t the hard part. In fact, it’s quite easy. I find the hardest part to be breaking the routine. It’s easy to bang out a quick email while “multi-tasking” – talking to someone in the room, “participating” in a conference call, etc.
A note takes focus, thought, and reflection. Hence, it becomes more meaningful.
As we think about ways to improve the world around us, I think we need to reconsider the handwritten note. Don’t overlook its potential. Give it a shot – buy some nice notecards, pick up your best pen, and commit a random act of kindness. Send ’em something for their sock drawer.
Keep it lit, Y’all…