This post is part of our Monthly-ish Tips series.

I’m guessing you’re like I am in that you don’t end each day wistfully thinking, “If only I had received more email.” Just last week, though, I found one of the loveliest messages in my inbox I’ve ever gotten—which is saying something because I actually get some really, really nice ones on a pretty regular basis. Last week’s dispatch was a brilliant blend of traditional and modern communication that strikes me as a simple and distinctive addition to all of our relationship-building toolkits.

What I received: A PDF of a hand-written note of gratitude attached to an email message. (Thank you, Mark M.)

Here are three reasons it struck me so powerfully, particularly in combination:

  1. Hand-written. If you’ve been reading my Weekly-ish Tips for a while you’re not surprised that I’m calling out the hand-written part of the message I received. I’ll summarize here by saying I’m a big fan of communication that’s both personal and personalized, and that stands out from our modern-day norms.
  2. Unexpected gratitude. It wasn’t just a note to say hello, though that would have been nice. It was an out-of-the-blue expression of appreciation, which made it all the more lovely. I’ve also written before about a study revealing that a simple email of gratitude—one that takes on average five minutes or less to write—left recipients “ecstatic.” Kudos to Mark for overcoming any barriers that said study revealed, including erroneously anticipating my discomfort and underestimating my resulting joy.
  3. The sender and I both got fast gratification from a message quickly sent and received. Considering the results of the study cited above, it’s also no surprise that I felt compelled to email him back immediately after I read his attachment to say thank you—and it was easy to just hit “Reply.”

It was the best of all worlds.

My colleague Cate Gregory and I have made a lot of effort since COVID to ask clients if they’d be willing to share non-office addresses so that we might still physically send our handwritten missives. This has been an effort with its own set of rewards that has sometimes tipped heavier on the effort side of the scale, and sometimes felt just a little too awkward, leading us to avoid the reach-outs all together.

Now we all have an alternative.

Your clients probably dread their email inboxes at least some of the time, if not regularly. Why not be the reason they look forward to hitting Send/Receive every once-in-a-while?

Make It Real

This week, take five minutes to write a hand-written message of gratitude, then scan it and email it. What’s it like for you?

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).