In my book, Handwritten Notes: Learn How a Small, Powerful Act Can Enrich Your Life, I talk about the benefits of reaching out to others using handwritten notes.
One major point I make in the book is that writing impactful notes requires deep, focused thought. Phoning it in with generic superlatives or flattery doesn’t count. To write a truly captivating message that lingers in another person’s mind for months on end, one that they’ll appreciate in a way where they’ll look at you with renewed reverence, you must spend focused time thinking about them.
Writing with sincerity is key. Here are some questions to ask yourself before getting started on your note:
What makes this person unique?
What impresses you the most about this person? What do they do well? Do they make parenting look easy? Do they have a great sense of humor? If they are big-hearted, how specifically do they show it? Do they have an infinite amount of patience? Do they make a killer cocktail?
Something good can be said about absolutely anyone, and even the toughest and angriest of people will soften when you tell them so. Everyone wants to feel like they matter; give people that feeling, and you will positively impact them.
When is this person at their best?
Think about when you see this person at their best. Perhaps it’s when helping a neighbor in need, or maybe it’s at work leading a team. My mom is at her best when things don’t go as planned. She excels in unexpected and challenging situations, somehow making the impossible look easy. I’m in awe of her ability to do this. And I write her notes telling her so.
The notes encourage her and give her a special lift, and they deepen my connection with her. I could text her, but there’s something about pen-to-paper that makes the message more meaningful. It tells you that someone took the time to think about you.
What obstacles have they overcome?
Take a walk in another person’s shoes and look at what they’ve endured. Acknowledging someone’s obstacles in a note is the type of deep-level validation that brings a magnetic pull to relationships. Resist the urge to self-relate: “I’ve been there too — when I was out of college, I had this happen to me….”
You’re upstaging another person without knowing it. You may have good intentions, but the reader will disengage, and it will limit your goal of a greater connection. So tuck away your instinct to focus on yourself and instead zero in entirely on the other person’s obstacles.
One of the cardinal rules of writing an impactful note is to make the note 100 percent about the other person.
What are this person’s sources of pride?
It’s fine to ask people what accomplishments they’re most proud of. Who wouldn’t like a friendly stage to talk about their successes? Whether you ask or not, you probably hear interesting things about people from others all the time. Think about all the good you could spread if you started paying more attention.
It could be as simple as hearing, “If you want it done right, you have to ask Dave.” Dave sounds like a diligent and responsible person. How much more engaged and connected would we be if we paid attention and let others like Dave know how they’re perceived?
How much more fulfilled would we be if we knew about all the good things people thought about us? John Redos, the Director of Rowing at Blair Academy in New Jersey, has led the girls’ rowing team to win several major championships. He once showed me his team’s wall of Post-it notes that athletes write after each practice.
They highlight what someone did well in practice. Seniors encourage freshmen, and friends encourage friends. For a sport that relies heavily on team camaraderie and trust, it’s no coincidence that Redos’ team is among the top in the nation.
What qualities in this person do you wish you had more of yourself?
There’s nothing more endearing than hearing someone wish they were more like you. Many resist admitting admiration, thinking they’ll look smaller to the other person. But the opposite is true. Your demonstration of humility and kindness will not only increase someone’s respect for you, but they’ll perceive you as more trustworthy as well.
People never forget how a sincere compliment made them feel. So write it down in a handwritten note and send it to another person today.
You’ll both be better for it.
Purchase her new book:
Handwritten Notes: Learn How a Small, Powerful Act Can Enrich Your Life!