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Holidays ~ Any Excuse to Celebrate and Communicate
Excerpted from Chapter 7

Let’s be honest. There are only so many ways you can wish someone a “happy birthday” or a “Merry Christmas.” The challenge in these instances is to convey something beyond the actual holiday or special occasion. Here’s where the investment of a little time, some thoughtfulness, and a dash of creativity can yield huge returns in years to come.

1. The easiest way to send memorable communications is to develop your own, personal communication style. It can be almost anything as long as it’s uniquely you—something as simple as a distinctive signature or tagline. You could choose to express yourself using a particular format or delivery method (giant postcards, wax seals, engraved stationery, seasonal stickers). Pick an image associated with your job, your favorite sport, a physical attribute, your favorite country, even—or maybe especially—your favorite food (bacon could be a popular choice). Make it your personal logo. Incorporate it into your message, or your sign-off, or get a little stamp and use it on everything—stationery, notes, pre-printed cards.

Anything authentic about you can become your imprimatur. It will add an element of personalization and customization to all your communications that will be remembered.

2. Think of something unique about the recipient and incorporate that into all your communications with them. You may think I’m crazy, but I’m 100% serious about this. Come on, even blast email marketers have figured out how to include my name in their messages. And this is the easiest place to start—use the recipient’s name, not just in the salutation, but in the body of the message as well.

They say our name is the sweetest word we can hear. I don’t know who “they” are, but scientists have been able to measure an increase in brain activity and other subliminal reactions when we read or hear our name. These reactions were associated with good vibrations and other scientific terms too hard to spell. But the point is, dear reader, it feels nice when people address us personally.This is equally appropriate in personal and professional relationships. One caveat: don’t mess this up. I’d rather be addressed as “ma’am” than see the misspellings or hear the convoluted pronunciations of my name. Do you hear me corporate trainers of America?

3. Nicknames are a great way to specialize a message. When given in the right spirit, I believe most people are flattered by being given a nickname or a pet name. The Italians simply take a physical characteristic and include it in their greeting to strangers. On my first visit to Italy I frequently heard “Ciao bella” and “Ciao bambino” when I was walking on a crowded street. I also heard “Ciao barbe.” At first, I wondered how these strangers knew my name until someone explained that it meant, “hello beard or mustache.” After that, I was almost 90% sure they weren’t talking to me.

I have always hated the nicknames associated with my name. Too bad. Born in 1951, there was a real good chance that I would be named Barbara. It’s the 4th most common woman’s name in the US today. There are about 1.2 million of us. Naturally, nicknames proliferated in an attempt to tell us apart on paper and in the classroom. There were the obvious Barb, Barbie, Babs, Bobby/ Bobbi/ Bobbie, etc. I staked out my preference early and with some passion. My name was Barbara. End of discussion. That worked pretty well—with one exception—my Godfather. By the time I was 10 years old, I was one of 36 grandchildren on my father’s side of the family. It was a challenge to stand out in that crowd. I do remember special birthday cards, but more memorable were our terms of endearment for one another. In a clan this size, I’m sure he’d been called to the baptismal font more than once. But no matter. He was “my Uncle Leo.” I was his “Barb-wire.”

Find something special about those near and dear to you and include it in your one-on-one communications.

A shared experience or relationship is another way to add uniqueness to your communications. Again, it can be as silly and simple as calling your only son, “my favorite son,” or stealing a great line from a movie and modifying it for your own purposes. “Remember, we’ll always have Des Moines” will resonate with that special someone, if not “you had me at—is this seat taken?”

Special terms don’t need to be funny, clever or quotable, just authentic and reflective of your special relationship. My parents exchanged all the typical holiday cards and as with many families, the cards were displayed on the fireplace mantel. Soon after I learned to read, I noticed that my parents signed their cards to one another as either Mr. or Mrs. Polano. Of course I was very curious and asked several times, but they never shared the story. This signature was shorthand for something special, known only to them. What a lovely and romantic tradition.

State the obvious. This may sound strange, but I often find myself dancing around the obvious when trying to communicate. It’s my #1 reason for procrastinating. Our My name was greetings are a reflection of ourselves. We want them to be perfect, special, memorable. It may or may not be true about gifts, but when it comes to words, you can rest assured that it is always the thought that counts. So just say it.

OK, you have a decent vocabulary. That doesn’t mean you need to trot out a 50¢ word every other sentence or compose a Pulitzer-quality essay. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You’re my best friend and you mean the world to me. Happy Birthday.” Sure, it could be fancier, but the straightforward method leaves little doubt about what you mean and how you feel. Say it simply and with genuine emotion.


Wish you could read more? Buy the book and enjoy! Oh, and if you happen to have a communication challenge of your own, Ask Barbara…