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The Impact of a Handwritten Note

If you’re old enough you remember the days of writing personal thank you notes. It was the expected and normal thing that you painstakingly addressed envelopes and wrote words of gratitude for graduation gifts and wedding wishes. But for the most part, those are a thing of the past.


Today’s world is distinguished by instant communication and social media. Handwritten notes have almost disappeared from our culture. Text messaging and social media messaging has numbed the excitement and personalization of conveying special responses. It’s all too easy and with no real sense of character and thoughtfulness.


Receiving a handwritten card in the mail is rare, and touches the emotions in a way other social media cannot begin to approach. From both a business and personal perspective, expressing gratitude and recognition in this way is especially satisfying.


Daryl Person says handwritten notes are helpful because they build relationships. Handwritten notes, like relationships, are unique, providing a level of intimacy unlike e-communications. They establish a connection by demonstrating care and willingness to take the time to write. People like to know they are thought of and valued. Handwritten notes not only accomplish this, but they take it a step further by laying the foundation for a lasting relationship.


They revive. They remind employees and customers and friends of why they connect with you, and deliver confidence about their future relationship with you. They distinguish. Most people ignore, or do something fairly impersonal and quick. Handwritten notes distinguish you/your company as thoughtful and appreciative, taking time to go the extra mile.


As the wise philosopher William James once said, “The deepest longing in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Next time you want to show your appreciation or value for someone, remember the power a handwritten note holds in building, reviving, and maintaining productive and fulfilling relationships.


Rarity creates value. It means more than a 30-second text message. When we handwrite, there’s no editing, copying, and pasting. It communicates more authenticity. A physical note can be kept for a special keepsake. When you find an old card or note, the memories flood back again and renew the connection.


Research says it’s not unusual for a person to send 100 instant messages per day. Email accounts may receive 100 emails per day. We are so used to receiving this daily torrent of words that we devalue the meanings. Receiving a quick email thanking you may initially give a sense of warmth, but it’s quickly lost and forgotten in the sea of emails and messages. A handwritten note shows deeper investment in both time and effort. The appreciation is perceived as greater and leaves a lasting impression. A handwritten note can show that a person is not forgotten, follow up on previous conversations, or even include a gift—all of which show care and thoughtfulness.


Positive psychology research shows the importance of gratitude on our wellbeing and happiness. We are told that gratitude is the healthiest human emotion. Showing it affects us and we can’t overestimate how small shows of appreciation can have a huge effect on someone else. A handwritten note leaves a stronger emotional impression and gives us the power to be more influential.


So, how can we bring back the art of handwriting our notes instead of sending off a quick text? Writing has always been seen as expressing our personality, so it’s a perfect way to get creative.


Personalize it. Making your note unique and personal will always be a winner. Whether you leave a note for your family member when you leave in the morning or say thank you to a friend or neighbor, don’t be afraid to put your own brand on it. Go back to your childhood when you’d draw doodles and smiley faces (the original and best emoji!). Personalize it for them. My dad used to always do a crazy little smiley face with hair, and we treasure these if we find one.


Make it longer than a typical text message. Short notes are great, but to really influence and make an impact, particularly at work, make sure the note is longer than what you would write in a standard text message. Show that you actually put thought and effort into it.


Express your emotion. Text messages are short and to the point. In a note, take the time to express how you feel through gratitude, thanks, warmth, and a sense of connection. These are things we tend to leave out when we know it will end up in someone’s trash inbox almost straight away. Take the opportunity to really get those feelings across. It will matter.


Time it. We humans tend to adapt to things very quickly, which is why we tend to devalue something the more we have it. The same can be applied to receiving handwritten notes. Don’t send them too frequently to one person. Make it a special every now and then and catch people by surprise.


Make that special impact on someone. Turn off your keyboard and send some handwritten, heartfelt notes.


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