Holiday Cards or House of Cards

Tis the season when we get filled with both the joy and burdened with the habits of the holidays. You know what I mean. The fun and chore of giving and getting. One of the most interesting parts of the season, at least for me, is the exchange of holiday cards. And here we often go into pure robotic mode. J0401611

Some anal maniacs have been sending out cards already. I got one before Thanksgiving! The card was unsigned, no note. They planned early but did not have time to personalize it. Why send it? I guess to check it off the long list of holiday tasks.

Many people have heard of the BYU professor who sent randomly chosen people from the phone book holiday cards. The next year close to half sent him cards! Robert Cialdini, the former Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University used to tell this story. I followed up with him on several occasions and had the pleasure of hearing him speak many times. He later sent me a Xmas card! He taught me many things, but mostly the power and importance of reciprocity. That's what the BYU professor proved, that the trigger of mutual obligation can provoke a pavlovian response to a stranger who sends us a card! Yikes.

We decide to take on the hassle and expense of sending a card to friends and love ones. (that is if we really review the list to see if they are in fact still our friends) We may even use this opportunity to send a photo or two with a little newsletter on the happenings of the family unit because we have not had time to update them during our busy busy year.

Here are some basic principles and opportunities created by the holiday card exchange:

  1. If you are going to send a card, please sign it! If we are merely sending out an impersonal mass mailing, then why do it. Email it. It's not the thought that counts, it's being thoughtful.
  2. Make sure you update and cull your list. Only send to people that matter to you. Exchanging a piece of paper and a stamp with people you do not care about will never matter. If you do not remember the person on your list, you may be better off opening up your local telephone directory! 🙂
  3. If you send a newsletter, please make it readable and brief. For a long time I wrote the anti-holiday family newsletter in protest. Instead of the typical brag sheet of happy faces and perfect family stories, I revealed the truth accompanied by an embarrassing photo of the family–like this one. SunflowerSadly, to me, this newsletter and photos were banned by an angry mob with whom I co-habitate.
  4. Add card recipients on the fly to connect with new people you have met or reconnected with.
  5. Keep track of your list. As you add recipients, figure out a system that works for you. Fyi–no list, no network!

Thinking and acting green is also urged. But there is still something about a personal note, card, photo and maybe newsletter that is lost in the cyber-world we live in. Consider the pleasure you get when someone actually puts pen to paper and says something real! That's my point if you are not going to personalize it and put your John Hancock on it–walk away from the cards!

In any event, the holidays, despite the craziness are a wonderful time to reconnect with people. People you know well, people you just met. It is a time to express our appreciation for one another personally. Thankfully, everyone, well most everyone, understands that the gift giving thing is less this year. So your time, your personal effort to actually talk is valued and valuable.

Please do not say that you understand this, "but the holidays are too busy–I will make those connections next year." If so, keep that promise! Otherwise, it usually goes on the Himalayan size pile of intentions and to-dos that we tend to ignore.

Like passing out business cards you have to be thoughtful and intentional. Like all networking, how do we make the connection meaningful for me and thee? Otherwise we are building a cardboard network and a house of cards.

Cheers! Thanks for reading. John


 

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4 thoughts on “Holiday Cards or House of Cards”

  1. John, did someone take a dump on your cornflakes this morning? You need to relax and not worry about holiday card protocol, there are larger issues that deserve your attention. Some of us lonely hearts look forward to hearing from distant acquaintances, even (especially?) if only once a year. And if my orthodontist of 35 years ago doesn’t send me a card, i’ll worry he’s dead. As for the infamous sunflower picture, you need to let it go, they made the right call.
    Love ya!
    Rob
    (anal maniac?)

  2. Vehemently disagreeing with robbbob, here. I loved that sunflower photograph, and can imagine the story that accompanies it. This is the sort of holiday greeting I want to read: something honest and rebellious. Too bad that such creative outbursts are normalized out of us.
    More to the point, it is exactly these small traditions that deserve our attention. What is the purpose of holiday cards? Let’s tease that out. If it’s truly to connect with someone, then why wait for the holidays? If it’s only out of a sense of obligation, then let’s not waste time and resources. An unflinching devotion to tradition for its own sake has only gotten us where we are. Where would we rather be?

  3. I just came across this blog, but, the information here is still timely and important, IMO.
    I use an online system called SendOutCards, because, it allows me to do all the things you recommend, all online, in a personalized greeting card that gets “snail mailed” out.
    The quality, on recycled paper, is great.
    The website I go to is http://www.sendoutcards.com/b2b

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