Unpopular opinion: I hate receiving letters in the mail. Well, maybe hate is a strong word. Pictures from my nieces and nephews are pretty great, as long as I remember to open them. What generally happens is I just add today’s mail to yesterday’s… which is piled on the mail from of the previous day in a terrifying mountain of the unknown.
So, when I recently happened upon a letter that I had received right before the start of my yearlong sabbatical, it was especially noteworthy. Not only was this something I had opened in a timely manner, but I had held onto it. The letter was my friend Traci’s rather weighty response to a text I had sent her. Her response gained its pride of place because of the care she took and the insights she offered to me.
Now you may find yourself are asking, what does this unpopular opinion and reminiscing have to do with Lessons on Leadership? Well, here you are — three tips for creating a moment that lasts:
The Value of Repetition
Traci began her letter by repeating back to me one of the sentences I had originally texted to her. She wrote it as the letter’s header, put it in quotes, and included my name and the date. This simple act gave it weight and value. By making it so prominent, she made it clear that she was addressing this matter head-on and felt it was worthy of her time to provide her perspective on the matter, as a friend and confidant.
By repeating another person’s words back to them we clearly demonstrate that their words are valuable. We can do the same thing in our conversations; of course, we might want to avoid the whole repeating it word for word part. #creepermode
The use of repetition is so much more than, “I am listening” or “I hear you.” These actions show that the words have gained living space in another person. They remained there after the conversation ended. Any time another person allows us to occupy a place inside them it is not something we should take for granted; it is an honor.
The Common Ground
She went on from this moment of validation to let me know that this was ground we both shared, or in her words, “I getcha, girl!” And, really, it was so much more than that. She was open and vulnerable, sharing her own experiences and a bit of her history. It was not in an attempt to make it about her, but it was her saying, “I see you and I know you. I have been where you are. You are not alone.” How often can someone say that and then we feel the truth in those words? Moments of that kind of connection are rare.
Now while hers did entail a literal gift — she gave me a book that had spoken to her — the real gift she gave me were the insights she gleaned and was willing to share with me. As someone who had been there, she was able to tell me in advance things that might help along the way and thoughts to keep in mind. She pointed towards the light at the end of the tunnel and told me it really was there, not just an optical illusion or fruitless wishing. She gave me the gift of her experience and hope.
When I rediscovered Traci’s letter, I was flown back in time. I was sitting on my bed reading the letter for the first time. I was known. I was understood. My friends, this feeling is not something you can fabricate. You cannot give this whenever and to whomever you please. However, in those moments when two people resonate with shared joy, loss, or discovery, there is a real connection. More than a letter, she gave me the gift of her authentic self. And that is something that is something beyond value.
Jacquelyn Adams is a career development enthusiast and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, delving into more effective employee training strategies… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.