You’re sitting there at your desk, staring at your “Hang In There” eco-friendly greeting card. The harvest mouse on the outside stares back at you. “Come on, you’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes”, its squeaky little mouse voice nudges you. You slowly open up the card again, and there it is.
That white endless void. That never ending horizon of recycled paper.
The blank inside card.
“Why couldn’t they just print ‘Miss you’ inside and then I could just sign it??”
Has this ever happened to you? Be honest! Confession: It’s happened to me too. It’s likely happened to everyone who’s purchased a blank inside card. You loved the design on the front, and you’re sure your friend will too. You want them to love it, but now you don’t know what to write. And that 4 ¼” x 5 ½” space looks as expansive as the salt flats of Utah.
Pictured above: a blank inside card.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Writing an encouraging greeting card does not need to feel like drafting an architectural drawing. Here are 3 helpful tips for writing a meaningful greeting card:
Don't overthink it
Focus on the positive
Don't be afraid to open up
Let's dive in and break these down.
Don’t Overthink It
Let’s flip our perspective a bit here. When you receive a card in the mail, what is your reaction? If you’re like me, just seeing your name handwritten on an envelope from a friend already makes you happy - and you haven’t even opened the card yet! Then you open it up, and there’s a nice design and a little expression like “Thinking Of You”, or “Sending Hedgehugs” on the front. Inside is their message to you, and their signature.
Obviously the words written inside matter. But wouldn’t you agree that in this case it truly is “the thought that counts”? Just being the recipient of a lovely card, and knowing someone cares about you, is enough to bring you joy.
So, when you’re writing a card for a friend or loved one, don’t overthink it too much. You do not need to create the next greatest work of literature. You’re not trying to win awards, you’re just talking to someone you care for.
Just knowing that you thought of them and care for them is going to put a smile on their face and make your card meaningful.
Focus On the Positive
If you read or watch the news each day one thing is clear: there’s a lot of bad news out there. Many, including myself, make an effort to limit the amount of news they take in each day, and some have stopped watching the news entirely.
Why? Because all that negative and distressing news can raise our anxiety and affect our happiness.
In a similar way, in order to write a meaningful greeting card, we want to make sure we limit negative material, and focus on the positive. For instance, if you’re writing just to say “Hi” and let them know you miss them, limit how much you write about the - *looks around* - COVID-19 pandemic. It’s constantly in our mind each day, so no need to dwell on it.
Instead, talk about what you’re doing to keep up your joy during difficult times. Something you’re reading, or a new hobby, or maybe just how good you feel when you go for a walk in nature, or sit outside on a park bench on a sunny day. Hearing that may motivate your loved one to do the same. Focusing on positive things can encourage them.
Or maybe you’re sending a greeting card because someone is going through hard times. Perhaps they’re ill, or they’ve lost a loved one in death. Oftentimes when someone is grieving, we struggle with what to say.
For starters, you can acknowledge their feelings, and empathize with their situation. But in doing so, try not to dwell on the negative. If we go on and on about how sad and heartbreaking it is regarding what they’re going through, it may not be very upbuilding.
Instead, focus on the positive. Tell them how much you love them. Share a happy memory with them. Let them know that if they ever need someone to talk to, even if they just need to vent - or cry - that you’re there for them. Like we discussed above, just the simple fact that you have sent them a card and wrote to them will bring them comfort.
Don’t Be Afraid to Open Up
Good communication is the backbone of any strong relationship. This communication is a two-way street, meaning both parties need to talk honestly and openly with each other. So when writing a card and expressing concern for how your loved one is doing, don’t forget to let them know how you’re doing.
Not all of us are very good at expressing our feelings. Especially for guys, it doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes too, for both men and women, we hide how we’re feeling because we’re afraid of what others will think of us. When we know someone is struggling, we feel we need to put on a brave face and be strong around them.
But rather than being a burden on them, hearing your struggles may actually help them.
I know this might seem like a contradiction to Focus On the Positive, but I promise I don't have amnesia, so allow me to explain.
Recently, as this pandemic has been wearing on, I've had my good days, but also my bad days where I just stare at the wall and feel glum. Most of the time when talking to friends I would hide this. I would put on a brave face and say the right stuff: “This is all just temporary”, “Grow through what you go through” - you know the spiel.
My friends would all say similar things. So I would think that’s normal and then I’d question why I’m the only one feeling this way. One day though, I asked a good friend how he was doing, and he was honest. He was struggling too. His goal was simply: “to get through this pandemic with my sanity”, and that’s it. And guess what? His honest feelings made me feel better.
Because I realized I wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
So I started doing the same. I started opening up more to my friends about everyday life and my feelings. And what happened? They opened up and shared that they were feeling the same way. They were also relieved to hear they weren’t the only ones going through it!
There’s a lesson here: Don’t be afraid to open up. It might be a little scary at first, but your loved one will appreciate that you’ve chosen to let down your wall for them. And they will likely return the favor. Then you’ll really know how they’re feeling, and how you can help them. All of this will only make your relationship grow stronger.
Now, obviously we need to balance sharing our feelings with also focusing on the positive, as we discussed above. So along with sharing any potential negative feelings you've had, make sure you circle back to the positive. Draw attention to the big picture, that these hard times will end. And together, you can both help each other through.
To sum it all up, don’t hold back because you’re not Shakespeare or Tolstoy. Your kind, caring words and your happy thoughts and memories will lift their spirits and draw them closer to you. So grab your pen, talk to your friend, and send them a meaningful greeting card (maybe even one that comes with flowers). ;)