If there was one thing that I’ve learnt from my life, it is that the smallest gestures of human kindness and consideration go further than anything else when wanting to connect with another person. I didn’t think about this much until I sat down to write a thank you letter to a friend of mine this week after she had a few others and myself over for an impromptu dinner party.
I’ve been aware that I’m the only one in my friendship circles that writes letters for quite a while. Yes, I receive Christmas cards at Christmas time and yes, my family mailed me a postcard while they’re enjoying life overseas but the art of taking time out of our busy lives to make a gesture of thanks is gone. The text message, the Facebook post and even worse – the lack of appreciation have replaced it all.
The thing that worries me most about this is that whether we see it as a big issue or not, the change in our style of communication is having a profound effect on relationships.
Gone are the days when a girl would receive a handwritten letter from a young man – a real indicator of his feelings when he takes the time to write to her neatly. And instead, we have text messages with little emotion and little meaning that can be flicked away in just a few seconds.
Gone are the days when a handwritten letter of thanks is sent from one business person to another, after an introduction, deal or a function just to reach out and show sincere gratitude. Instead, an email is sent, often but a secretary or assistant and it is considered enough.
When I helped my parents to clean out their home before they moved into their retirement village, we spent days as a family clearing out and sorting out their old things, getting ready to downsize. Amongst the boxes of old trinkets and treasures, I found a box of letters that had been written to my mother before they became a relic.
There were letters saying thank you for things, letters just catching up, letters requesting help, letters to say I love you and letters quite simply gossiping. They were all indicative of the era my mother grew up in, but the interesting thing is that every letter I found and (with permission) read, was from someone I know my mother has had a friendship with. They were all from people who are around today.
Our disposable society of this century has gone far past our belongings, electronics and toys. These days, people look at friendships, spouses and relationships as disposable too. So could there be a link between the fact that our interactions with those who matter these days are limited, impersonal and brief, whereas once upon a time to communicate with someone, it took effort, time and consideration and our relaxed approach to holding relationships together?
If society today began taking the time and care to express our feelings in a personal and considerate way, we might find ourselves holding onto more friendships and more relationships. It simply makes us value each other more, feel appreciated and appreciate others.
I feel like if we live like our parents did, and communicate with heart and meaning once again; we can revolutionise relationships – of marriages, of friendships and businesses and create a culture that cares once more.