heliotrope learning

better skills, brighter future

The personal touch

I’m beginning to think I’m seriously out of touch with the youth of today. Well, technically, in my mid-forties I am – not much thought required. But the reliance on electronic communication and social media means that the personal touch is diminishing sharply. I’m thinking particularly about thank you letters; in a previous blog entry, I mentioned the importance of considering the needs of your reader when deciding on the format and style of your communication. As one of my colleagues puts it “the audience decides if the joke is funny’. And so it is with written communication – once we’ve sent our letter/report/email it’s out of our hands. And the response of our reader will depend on numerous factors, including ‘is this what I was expecting to receive?’

For me, sending a thank you letter via email or as a message on Facebook may not be sincere enough to show gratitude for the present or occasion. It’s much easier for the young person – let’s face it, they’re never off their phones/computers. They can write a standard email, change a couple of sentences and copy and paste it into numerous messages. But the people they’re writing to may well be of a different generation. Even if they are silver surfers, au fait with email and Skype, they expect acknowledgement of a gift and it only seems appropriate to do so in the way they would prefer.

I’ve read somewhere that handwritten notes and cards seem so much more personal because you have actually touched the paper with a pen and put it into an envelope. There is some connection between sender and receiver. And for me, that’s important when everything else is digitised and virtual. By way of example, my most treasured possession is my wedding photo album; whilst I still take photos, I don’t often print them off. Do you?

I’m not suggesting that you should keep all the letters and cards you receive – I certainly don’t have the space. But it means more to have written something in the first place. Last Christmas, we were hosted by my Czech sister-in-law’s parents. I wrote thank you letters to them once we returned to the UK. I used Google Translate (possibly very dubious translation), as my Czech knowledge is scant; but rather than cut and paste the text in to an email/Word letter, I took time to copy it by hand into my thank you card. I hope the additional effort was appreciated. I didn’t do it to be clever; I did it because I wanted them to know how much I had valued the effort they had put into Christmas.

That said, I am grateful to Jacquie Lawson for designing such lovely e-cards. There are cards for every occasion, many with animations, which makes them different from a physical card. As a result of subscribing to her site (www.jacquielawson.com) I send e-cards for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s a quick ‘how are you doing?’; at other times, it’s a way of rectifying a forgotten birthday that ensures my good wishes do reach the recipient on their special day. Does that make the sentiment any less personal or is it a case of ‘it’s the thought that counts’? I think I’d still prefer to take the time to put pen to paper because it means more to the recipient. It will be interesting to see how this changes over time.