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December 9, 2019

The Written Word & Other Lost Communication Forms

Saturday was National Letter Writing Day – and isn’t that a lost art? When is the last time you sent someone a letter?  I love cards and like to brighten peoples’ days, but I don’t do it as often as I used to.  Plus, my handwriting is going down the drain, and I type so much faster.  But I still write a note on my holiday cards before spamming 200 of my friends and family with the latest picture of my children.

Modern technology makes our lives easier and shortens the length of time it takes to complete tasks.  It’s amazing to think that in my lifetime alone we went from rotary phones to touch-tone; then came “portable” phones – remember those? I know, I’m old. Cell phones and sending and receiving messages from our watches seemed like spy fiction – i.e. “Get Smart” – and yet here we are.

I text people a lot. My mom, my kids, my closest friends, even my kids’ teachers and our clients.  It’s a quick way to ask a question or send an update that doesn’t need to be in an email, and certainly doesn’t need to interrupt someone’s day with a phone call. I also check social media on my phone to see what my closest friends’ and mere acquaintances are up to.  I “like” and “love” pictures of their kids playing in the snow, a particularly beautiful meal they’ve prepared, and scenes from their latest vacations.

This time of year, everyone is scrambling (or already done – over-achievers!) to capture the perfect photo and select the perfect holiday card - I mean, even holiday cards have become like a social media post, but on paper. How many holiday cards do you receive that actually include a hand-written note?  Even just “Love, Me” at the bottom, for example, written in actual pen by a human hand?

Thank you notes are also a dying breed – last time you met someone for a networking session, or interviewed for a job, did you send a thank-you?  I find that fewer and fewer people send thank you notes after an interview, and those that do, primarily send emails.  A written note really stands out!

What I don’t do often enough anymore is actually communicate with people.  And communications is my job.  We counsel our clients to create two-way communication opportunities with employees, customers and other stakeholders, but, in my personal life, at the end of the day the convenience and minimal time required to send someone a quick text or a thumbs-up emoji often beats out a more meaningful interaction.

I know it was letter writing day, but I also want to make the case for picking up the phone, and (gasp!) walking over to someone to have a face-to-face conversation.  We’ve all been caught up in email discussions, tones can be misread, a hundred follow-up questions go back-and-forth; often innocent bystanders are caught in the “cc” crossfire of it all.  It is not uncommon for me to plead in my office to those newer in the workforce, practically raised on the technologies that I am still learning, to “please just pick up the phone and clarify what this is, and stop with the email.”

So, in honor of National Letter Writing Day, I am going to make more of an effort to write people notes and mail them, to pick up the phone rather than like a social media image, and to walk over and talk to someone directly whenever possible.

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