A Handwritten Note to a Neighbor Can Be a Game Changer

  • Published: Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- When a neighbor receives a kind note from us in the mail, especially if it is handwritten, they feel like the writer has a deeper desire to serve them or to connect.

“One might say that a handwritten note can be a game changer. Especially now when many consider a handwritten note a dying art form,” said David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Isolated and lonely people desire a personal touch. This has always been true. But it is especially true during this COVID pandemic period in history.

Quentin Schultze, a Communication Professor Emeritus at Calvin College, is a fan of handwritten notes and personal letters. He has written books and blogs on communication topics and when it comes to a handwritten note, he says a nicely written note is gold.

“If there’s something very personal, that’s encouraging and complimentary in the note, it makes a huge difference,” said Schultze. “Communication is not about sending and receiving messages. Communication is about connecting with each other. So communication is fundamentally about creating relationships. Handwritten notes are a way to do that, and especially now since so few people take the time to send them.”

A handwritten note is the opposite of what happens on social media. There is no public exposure or influence or group laughter. But there is also none of the negative that comes with social media, including the possibility now that your account might be removed.

“Handwritten notes are tremendously powerful because they are so personal,” writes Schultze. “Very few people will take the time to get a card or a piece of paper and write a note and send it to someone, it just does not happen much. If you compare that to sending off a text, or an email, or even calling someone on the phone, there’s much more time, effort, commitment. And there’s more personality in a handwritten note, because nobody has our handwriting.”

Note writing has other benefits too.

A handwritten note can provide a personal touch for isolated people.

Handwritten notes are a great way to be an encourager, to tell someone they are valued or that they are doing a great job.

“Even introverts, who might be uncomfortable knocking on the door and handing a plate of cookies to a neighbor as part of an introduction, can send a kind handwritten note as an introduction,” said Burton.

In an office, personal notes are a powerful tool for morale and team unity. 

“Personally, there have been times that I’ve received notes worth keeping. I have an office file labeled ‘thank you notes’ and I take them out from time to time to read them.  The notes were an encouragement when I got them and are an encouragement every time I read them,” said Burton.

Some people that actually have a “gratitude board” in their office that they keep thank you notes displayed on.

“Being able to keep a handwritten note might be an additional benefit to this kind of communication. In a way, the ability to keep the note in a file creates the potential for a long lasting effect on the recipient,” said Burton.

So where do you start with this new habit? 

Get yourself some nice blank cards or stationery, a nice pen, and then watch for ways to show kindness to others. When you see those acts of kindness, write the person a note. In time, you will begin to note more acts of kindness because this exercise will change your focus.

Even if you write one note a week, to somebody else, maybe four or five sentences, it is a positive step. 

“Don’t make the note long. Don’t give all kinds of explanations. Just get immediately to the point from your heart. That will mean a lot to the neighbor or person that receives it,” said Schultze.

Even something simple like: “I really appreciate you as a friend” or “thank you for keeping such a nice yard,” and then send it off. 

“Writing a handwritten note and mailing it is about as close as we got to instant social media in the first several centuries of our nation’s history. The required time delay for responses was probably good and the thoughtful personal touch needed was definitely good,” said Schultze.

For more information on this topic, let me recommend a video from Steve Hartman at CBS who did a piece for his segment “On the Road” entitled “The lost art of thank you notes.” You can find the video on YouTube.com or directly at this link: https://youtu.be/e_u9W_yIKa4

You might also read John Kralik’s book: 365 Thank Yous: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life. 

If you really like this idea and want some practice, and especially if this article has made a difference in your life, write me a note and mail it to David Burton, Greene County MU Extension, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, Mo. 65807.
 

Writer: David Burton

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