Note: I’m publishing this post in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we isolate ourselves to hopefully flatten the curve of disease spread, let’s use all the ways we can to maintain and strengthen social connection. Reach out and touch people with words rather than in person; just be sure to follow the most current guidelines for health and safety.)
If Neil Armstrong, Barack Obama, and George H.W. Bush took the time to write personal notes, maybe we should, too.
You’d think they’d have “their people” take care of those things. But no. Many busy, powerful people, past to the present, have recognized the human value of writing personal notes. (Check out 11 of their notes using the link at the end of this post.)
Whether a note is handwritten or printed and signed, it stands above the deluge of digital life. A note is a physical thing appearing in your mailbox that you can hold in your hand. It indicates someone took a few moments to think of you and say so. And it’s ageless: Younger generations may or may not be learning cursive, but most love personal snail mail. Greeting cards, notes – Hallmark loves Millennials.
Social observers say our modern culture has resulted in an epidemic of loneliness. Digital communication is disembodied. All generations are in danger of feeling like no one really sees them. Personal notes can build bridges of humanity, in both the personal and professional realms.
What to say in a note? Say thank you. Tell a younger colleague you’ve learned something from them. Give kudos to a talent you observe in a coworker. Congratulate a promotion. Express sympathy when you know someone is going through a personal struggle. Just share a silly thought or meaningful quote. It all says “I’m noticing you. I’m glad we share time and space.”
My goal is to send a handwritten note to someone once a week in 2020. I’ve already fallen short, but I’ll keep on it. If you’re like me, you won’t send any unless you get intentional. Will you join me in this goal? Buy some blank notecards and stamps. Print, if you are worried the recipient won’t be able to read your cursive. It might take you two minutes. To form the habit, choose a day each week to write a note.
Your personal note will make the recipient’s day, no matter how old they are.
And trust me, you will be memorable.
Read “11 Thank You Notes from Famous People” here.
Personal notes are part of the recommendations in two of The Clapping Oak Workshops: Cross-Generational Communication and Business Writing. All in-person workshops are on hold until we are clear of the COVID-19 pandemic.