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Networking Refresher–When Did We Stop Sending Notes?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

See also Networking: Stumbling Block #3—Following Up

Becuse of back trouble, I’ve been in and out (mostly out) of church for the past six weeks. Sunday before last, the first time I tried to sit through the whole service, I sat behind a young woman whom I’ve met in passing several times, whose husband I sing with in choir. She was giving the children’s sermon that morning and her back was bothering her too. But instead of asking for prayers for herself, she turned around and asked me how I was doing. I did pray for her throughout the beginning of the service and the children’s sermon, and she did a wonderful job.

Then, a few days later, I received a “Thinking of You” card in the mail from her with a very sweet handwritten note inside—expressing her sympathy over my situation, telling me that she and her husband are praying for me, and hoping that I’ll be able to get back involved in everything going on at church again soon.

I remember being so thrilled just to find a non-business-sized, hand-addressed envelope with a real stamp on it in my mailbox before even realizing it contained such a lovely sentiment. And it made me wonder:

Why did we ever stop doing this?

Again, because confession is good for the soul, I do have to admit that I’m the world’s worst at this. I always have been. You’d think that sitting down and writing someone a congratulatory, sympathy, or “with thoughts” note would be easy for a writer. But over the years, I’ve decided that note-writing is a learned skill and not something that comes naturally to 99% of the population.

For seven years, I worked for a lady who could always be counted on to write notes, especially thank-you notes. Whenever our team gave her a gift—a thank-you note. Whenever I stayed late to finish a project—a thank-you note. Whenever my parents came in town and we invited her out to lunch with us—a thank-you note. She was also great about writing notes of encouragement—whenever someone on her team achieved something, they were sure to find an envelope in their mailbox with a handwritten note telling them how excited she was about their achievement. As a Nashville native—and someone who’d worked in the advertising sales business for many years—she would cull the newspaper every morning looking for names she recognized. She would cut out the article (or the obit) and send a note to the person along with the clipping.

I was and continue to be awed by this skill. It seemed so effortless for her to just keep a stack of her “small” letterhead beside her and pick up a pen and dash off a brief, thoughtful note to someone.

Then I realized: it’s not effortless, but it is easy. So why don’t I do this?




Whoa. That’s hard to admit. But if we each examine ourselves for the reason(s) why we aren’t sending cards to people who’ve been absent from church for a couple of weeks, our acquaintances who’ve accomplished things great or small, friends whom we haven’t seen in a while, etc., it most likely will come down to one of these three reasons. I’ll freely admit that the reason I don’t do it is mostly self-centeredness: I just don’t think about it. If I do think about it, I have the supplies on hand. And I know it doesn’t take long to write a note. But then I’d have to find the address and then go buy stamps. Yes. I’d have to go buy stamps. The half-book of stamps I have at home are thirty-seven cent stamps. That’s how long ago it was that I bought them. Two rate increases ago.

But, I tell myself, an e-mail is just as good—and much less time and effort on my part.

Well, if the recipient is anything like me, they get dozens or scores of e-mails a day. I’m fortunate now to work in a job where getting five e-mails in one day is a heavy day. But on my home e-mail I get bunches and bunches. Not that I mind them—by no means! I love getting e-mails from family and friends and former schoolmates and MTCW members. But these are such daily occurrences that they’ve lost their uniqueness. Anyone can sit down and write an e-mail. (I’m not saying to stop sending them—they’re my lifeline, my only connection to the outside world sometimes!)

Do you remember WAAAAYYYY back when the Internet was in its infancy and e-mail was a new form of communication? It was so cool to receive an e-mail from a friend, especially one who lived far away. “You’ve got mail” were three-and-a-half words we all longed to hear ten or eleven years ago. Now that pretty much everyone has Internet access and e-mail, it has become ordinary, easy to overlook, boring, sometimes nearly meaningless—because it takes hardly any time or effort.

Now think about the last time you got a note, card, or personal letter through snail mail. The envelope that’s a different size or color that immediately differentiates it from the bills, the sales flyers, the junk mail. The handwritten address on the envelope. The real stamp—perhaps one that even reflects the personality of the sender. Do you recognize the return address? Is it from a friend? A relative? Were you sort of expecting it because it’s a special occasion (your birthday, a holiday) or is it totally out of the blue? If it is totally out of the blue, how does it make you feel to be holding it in your hands?

Now, imagine giving the gift of that feeling to someone else.

I am committing to myself that I am going to start sending a card or note to my niece and nephews (who live an eight-hour drive from me in Baton Rouge) at least once a month. What does that have to do with business networking? On the surface, nothing. But if it helps me build the skill of “effortless” note-writing, then it’s going to help me in every aspect of my life, including networking.

Who will you send a note to this month?

  1. Wednesday, September 12, 2007 9:08 am

    This is EXTREMELY important! I encourage everyone, whether it be for their professional or personal life, to remember the personal connection.

    As you see from your experience, it stands out and truly says, “you are important”.


  2. Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:45 pm

    This is a lesson learned in childhood that I’ve been meaning to resurrect. I love getting mail and appreciate folks who take the time to send it.

    Email is not the same, although I’m certainly guilty. I hate to think about the last time I mailed a birthday card vs. an e-card.

    Let’s commit. One card per month to start.


  3. Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:00 pm

    I was raised on sending Thank You notes. I don’t always remember to do it though.

    I am sending a card this week. It’s my best friend’s birthday while I’m at conference and I have to mail her card and present by the end of the week.

    I do enjoy writing the notes when I remember, and have a lovely set of Thank-You notes and some pretty blank greeting cards. I have my eye on this blown glass dip pen set from Victorian Trading Company that comes with 6 colors of ink. It’s going to be my present to myself when I finish my transcription course and I’m really looking forward to using it to write notes.


  4. Melinda (Marmie) Smith permalink
    Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:26 pm

    Having been on the receiving end of weekly letters from my mom for many years, it’s wonderful. But, I opted to phone her weekly instead of taking the time to sit down & write her a letter. That’s awful!!

    None of my family or my in-laws live near us & I never hear a word from most of them.

    I agree, the personal touch needs to be resurrected!

    I commit to send out 1 card per month.


  5. Monday, September 17, 2007 8:55 am

    I enjoyed this post because I do miss paper mail. I, too, grew up knowing that it was a blessing to send and receive thank-you’s, words of encouragement, and newsy letters from friends & family. When I married, my thank-you notes were out the door within a week of returning from my honeymoon.

    One of my greatest treasures is a boxful of old family letters. I have the letters my parents exchanged in the year after they first met–they’re both gone now–and letters I wrote and received from them while we lived overseas. Email can’t replace a heartfelt handwritten letter.



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