“Putting it in Writing” is One of the Most Powerful Things You Can Do

As psychologist, author, and Harvard professor Dr. William James was dying on a hospital bed, he received a plant and a handwritten note from a friend. In his weakened condition, Dr. James wrote a note of thanks for the plant.

As he wrote the note, it suddenly dawned on him that “the deepest craving in human nature was the craving to be appreciated.” And strangely enough, he had overlooked that insight in all of his research. So Dr. James got off his deathbed and rewrote the history and findings of psychology.

He said the craving to feel appreciated is seldom, if ever, totally satisfied. If you go out into the world and make people feel appreciated, Dr. James said you will have power — not power over them, but power with them.

I think he’s right. When you make people feel genuinely appreciated, you stand out from the crowd. After all, most people don’t bother to do it. They figure you already know that you’re appreciated, so there’s no need to say it or write it.

They’re wrong. Even though people might know they’ve done a good job and even though they might know they’re appreciated, they need to hear it and they need to read it.

Of course people make all kinds of excuses. They tell me they don’t know what to say or how to say it. I’ll give you a few guidelines.

► 1. Tell the important people in your life how important they are.

I learned that after the deaths of my grandparents. Somehow or other it became my responsibility to help settle their estates and organize the auctions of their worldly goods. And there, in a place of prominence, were all the letters I had ever sent them, from age 18 up until the present. My grandparents were extremely important to me and my notes told them how important they were to me

Carl Coleman witnessed a similar incident. While driving to work one day, another driver crashed into his bumper. The female driver of the other car got out of her car, all distraught, admitting it was her fault. But she dreaded facing her husband because her new car had come out of the showroom only two days before.

Carl was sympathetic, but he had to exchange license numbers and registration dates. She went to her glove compartment to retrieve her documents. Tumbling out of the envelope, written in her husband’s distinctive handwriting, was a note that said, “In case of accident, remember Honey, it’s you I love, not the car.”

Do you think that note calmed her fears? And do you think that note affirmed her importance? Absolutely. People are important and they need to hear they’re important.

As simple as that sounds, lots of people don’t “get” it. I hear parents say, “We’ve given our children everything they’ve ever wanted.” And I hear managers say, “We’ve given our employees everything they’ve ever wanted.”

The problem is — they don’t know “if” they’re wanted. So make sure you tell them.

► 2. Write out your thanks.

Telling people they are important is important. But perhaps even more powerful than the words you speak are the words you write. Sure, written notes take a bit more work than simply saying something, but your written notes will be kept and reread for years to come.

So I’m urging you in today’s Tuesday Tip to put it in writing. Put it in your own handwriting … not a text message or email … partly because handwritten notes are so rare and partly because it’s so personal. Writing out your words of thanks, appreciation, and admiration is real class. It shows your willingness to go the extra mile for their extra mile.

When I’m conducting my program on The Power of Partnership, I often ask people to think about the last phone call they’re ever going to make. In other words, if they only had five minutes left to live and they could only make one phone call, I ask them to think about whom they would call and what they’d say. And then I ask why they’re waiting. They should be making that call now.

Here is a short video about the Power of Partnership.

In a similar sense, you should be thinking about whom you’d write and what you’d say if you could only send one more note. You never know how much time you have. DO IT NOW.

That’s what one Japanese fellow did. Perhaps you remember. It was the biggest airtime disaster in history when 520 people were killed when the plane crashed into a mountain.

As the other passengers were putting on their life jackets, this 52-year-old businessman took out his pocket calendar. He wrote down his last thoughts as the plane headed toward the mountain.

What do you think he wrote about? Do you think he fretted over how they would ever get along without him at the company? Who would run the corporation? And what will they say when he didn’t show up tomorrow morning?

This is what he wrote. He wrote his last words to his family. He said, “To think that our meal last night was our last one we will ever have. It’s been wonderful to be a part of this family.”

To his daughters he wrote, “Please take care of your mother. You’re so kind and capable. I know you’ll do just fine.” To his teenage son he wrote, “I’m counting on you. I appreciate you so much.” And to his wife he wrote, “We’ve had such a wonderful life together. You made it all possible. I want to thank you…”

That was the last. The plane crashed. But oh what a legacy of love, respect, and belief he left behind — all because he put it in writing, and he did it now.

Your hand, your pen, your words have the power to change a life forever. Just do it.