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Greeting card advice.

by Dear Jon
March 12, 2002

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Sort 123_Dear Jon-Greeting card advice. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Sort-master:

What is the best way to get into the habit of sending Birthday cards, Christmas cards, and all other items of good greeting and cheer?

Or is it better to simply save one's dollars that would normally go to Hallmark, American Greetings, and the US Postal Service?

Cordially (sort of,)

Hapless O. Greetless


Dear Hapless:

First of all, since your opening salutation did not address me by name, and your closing was only sort of cordial, I have a feeling that your list of people to send greeting cards to is pretty small, and that those on your list wouldn't care much whether they received one from you or not.

But you took the time to write Dear Jon, so I will take the time to give you some advice, even advice which is pertinent to your question.

If you are concerned that greeting cards are expensive, you need to experience what is called, at training seminars, a "paradigm shift." By seriously considering that greeting cards are an expense that can be saved, you have told me a lot about yourself.

1. You have told me that $3.50 matter more to you than the feelings of a friend.

2. You have told me that the convenience of not bothering matters more to you than the feelings of a friend.

3. You have told me that cutting against the grain of social convention, to be seen as independent and aloof of the shallow expectations of others, matters more to you than the feelings of a friend.

Now you are writing an anonymous advice columnist in the hopes of establishing some connection and validation in a world that you now find cold, aloof, even hostile to you. You have written to the wrong guy. You are about to get a whole lot more of what you didn't want.

To shift the paradigm, you need to repeat after me:

1. Friends matter.

2. Friends cost money.

3. Friends cost time.

Now let me explain to you in reverse order why each of these is important.

Friends cost time. Friendship is presence, even when that presence is from a distance in an e-mail, a phone call, or a keepsake sent snail-mail such as a greeting card. Friends validate each other's existence. Friendship says, "You matter to me so much I invest time in this relationship." That is powerful stuff.

Friends also cost money. Darn it all, friends like to have fun together. They like to eat lunch, go bowling or skating, see a movie and then talk about it afterwards over ice cream. Friends fight over the check to pay for each other's admissions or food. That awkwardness is not to be avoided; that kind of argument is affirming and joyful.

Friends are worth time and money because friends matter. Friends not only validate each other's existence, they also do things like: Network for jobs or clients through word-of-mouth, speak well of each other in peer reviews, write letters of recommendation on resumes, and sometimes even promote each other.

Given the tone of your letter, you are probably one of those who are bitter that your boss only promotes the people who schmooze. YOU, being independent and cutting against the grain of convention, do not STOOP to schmoozing. You let your work speak for itself.

Paradigm shift: Work speaking for itself is only half as effective as a friend who also speaks for your work, and only one-third as effective as two friends who speak for your work, and only one-fourth as effective as three friends who speak for your work. What you call schmoozing is what millions of normal people call "having friends at work." Friends like to work with friends. Why? Because friends make each other feel good. Bosses like to work with people they know they can work with: They will promote those with whom they have confidence in more than just the work; bosses also need to have confidence in the personalities of their co-workers, that these are the kinds of people who can go out and find business because they are thoughtful and likable. But is this fair?

It is not only fair, it MAKES A LOT OF SENSE. This is justice at its best, justice that rides on the grace that flows in relationships.

So buy a calendar, and write on it the significant dates for significant people in your life. Then, one week ahead of that date, mark on your calendar, "Send a Greeting Card!" And next time a co-worker asks if you want to go eat at Souper Salad for lunch, GO. Take a risk yourself and invest time and even money in being present for others.

Or don't. You can always take that $3.50 you saved on the birthday card and sew it into your mattress for a rainy day, since you won't have any friends to help you out.

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