The silly season is upon us again. Amongst other things, that means swinging into those annual routines around the office. Dusting off the decorations, planning the parties ... and composing the greeting cards or emails. Now that last task might sound fairly ho-hum, but it is a good example of how even a small amount of thought can make a big difference to your writing.
Most people approach Christmas cards and their kin as mass produced fodder. A pile of cards is circulated; signatures are scrawled in writing that would make a doctor baulk; the cards are fed into mail merged envelopes and sent off. Job done. At the other end, each greeting card is pulled out, glanced at, and slotted onto the venetian blinds.
And all that assumes that you are sending cards at all. Increasingly the cursory nature of card sending is being supplanted by an even more cursory email.
The effect of this process, whether in cards or emails, is the same as the effect of using words like ‘outcome’ and ‘going forward’: that is, nothing sticks. You finish with no idea who you sent cards to nor who you got them from.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this doesn’t quite reflect the intended spirit of the season. Aren’t we meant to be making personal connections? To be pausing to thank people for what they’ve done for us? To be fostering peace, good will and harmony?
The truth is, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to do annual greetings a whole lot differently, and to make them memorable in the process. Here’s a different approach you might take this year, assuming you're sending physical cards. (If you're sending emails the same philosophy applies.)
Gather the pile of cards with the pre-printed envelopes. (Printed envelopes are fine in my view.) For each card, check the addressee. Then pause... Think about this person and your relationship with them this year. Projects you’ve worked on, advice they’ve given you, deals you’ve done together.
Now: write the person’s name and one sentence – just one – on the card that recognises their contribution to your year. It doesn’t have to be gooey or corny and it doesn’t need to be poetry. It does need to be specific and genuine. For instance: “Your help on the book made it so much easier.” “Thanks for your business – it has been a big part of our year.” Finally, sign your name and finish off.
When your card is opened at the other end, guess what? It will be read, and it will be remembered. What’s more, you will be remembered too. Who knows? Your card may even make it onto the desk instead of into the window coverings.
And the cost? Nothing more than a few seconds, perhaps a minute at a stretch. Surely if someone is worth a greeting, they are worth that too?
This post is an update of a post previously published in 2010.
(Header image by David Brewster)