Here’s an Idea – Write a Letter of Recommendation

by Andy Wood on October 9, 2014

in Allocating Your Resources, Esteem, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

written on an old typewriter

Wrote a letter of recommendation the other day.  That in itself is nothing unusual – I do that often and have done it for years.  I often joke with whoever I’m writing it for that after I’m done I need a bath, or a priest or something.

“I’ve already lost the boots… I’m just trying to save the hat!”

But we both know I’m joking, and that I would never be deliberately dishonest – that would eventually catch up with them and me.

But between that and the opportunity I have to preach this weekend (here, if you are in the Mobile, Alabama area),  I’ve been thinking about relationships.

(Preaching moment:  Your life is the sum total of your relationships… with God, with others, and with yourself.  As your relationships go, so goes your life.  Okay, I’m done.)

This morning I was thinking about that reference letter, and about another one I wrote a couple of months ago.  That one didn’t have to do with a job application, and it wasn’t even requested.  I saw a friend and colleague’s LinkedIn profile, and spontaneously wrote a letter of recommendation for his professional practice.  It was honest, heartfelt, and a total surprise, really to him and me both.

It was also a wonderful relationship builder.

All This Has Me Thinking…

Why wait until somebody’s desperate or needs it?

Why limit our recommendations to verbal suggestions or networking?

In the same vein as “why wait until somebody’s dead to speak their praises,” why wait until somebody needs a favor?  If it’s done well, writing process does as much for the letter writer as it does for the beneficiary.

Try this.  Let’s come up with three names…

  1. Someone you’re so close to, you almost take your friendship/relationship for granted.
  2. Someone you admire greatly, but have never taken any initiative toward. Could be a student, fellow church member, a boss or colleague at work, whatever.
  3. (This one is trickier…) Someone you have a strained or broken relationship with.

Now… sit down to your trusty computer, mobile device or one of those things that leaves marks when you drag it across paper.  Pretend you’re writing a letter of recommendation for some position, or some award like “Awesomater of the Year.”

If the relationship is really awkward, pretend you’re writing it for their Parole Board review!

In the letter, focus only on what the person does well.  If you say “nothing,” you’re missing the point of this little exercise.  Hey, even the devil works hard.  List about 2-4 reasons you would recommend this person.  In the letter, share a personal example, anecdote, or observation about the difference this person is making or has made in your life, or what you admire about them.

Keep it honest!  Keep it real!  And keep it short!  One page or less.

So What Do I Actually Do With This Letter?

Up to you.

The main purpose for writing the letter is to benefit you… to strengthen your own sense of gratitude, love, and brotherly/sisterly kindness.

However, you may decide it’s totally appropriate to share this on some level.  A LinkedIn profile is a great start.  If it’s totally professional, send it to them and let them know you’re working on writing letters on behalf of people you admire, and should they ever need one, now they have one.  It doesn’t have to get all emotionally slathery.

Yeah, I just made up a word… slathery.

Anyway, if the letter is on a more personal level, share as you think appropriate.  This isn’t middle school, friends.  Don’t put checkboxes at the bottom and ask, “Do you like me too?”

What about the more awkward ones, or those with some relationship pain?

Keep it honest. Keep it real. Keep it short.  For your, um, “private collection,” you may want to write a letter to a pretend(!) third party that recommends the person for early retirement or something.  But even more effective would be a letter that acknowledges difficulties, then proceeds to recommend this person anyway.

Should you share it?

Only if you think it would strengthen or bring healing to the relationship.

Mostly, my thinking is that this can be a wonderful relationship builder because it requires you to focus on those qualities in another person that you respect and admire.  Don’t assume that person knows you admire them for this if you’ve never actually expressed it.  And most definitely don’t assume the general public knows it.  If it’s appropriate, in an appropriate forum, share it.

So here’s your homework – Write three of these recommendations over the next week.  What you do with them is up to you.

Can this get a little weird or creepy?  Sure.  Avoid using this little technique as a form of stalking, flirting, or speed dating (to quote Jimmy Fallon, “Ew!”).  But try it as a way to express sincere respect, appreciation, and friendship.

Love, too.  Love is good.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Orlando October 9, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Wow, Andy, this is a great exercise for the heart and the soul. I’ll have to give it a try! Blessings!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..The Great De-Tangler

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