The magazine article, torn roughly from its binding, sits on the kitchen counter.  'Though unaddressed, its location on the counter indicates it's for me. Its source and topic suggest whose hands left it there. At once, an invitation and a puzzle.

An invitation to read, to be influenced. A puzzle:  What aspect of our family life and conversations prompted this?  Why was THIS article chosen?  Why was it left here NOW?  What are you hoping I will DO as a result of reading this article?

Some articles are transparent. The continuation of a discussion. Another point in an argument. A suggestion for a family activity. Others are less so, at least to their receiver. An apparently, just as turn signals while driving in New England are considered a sign of weakness, so in our family it somehow became “bad form” to ask, “I saw the article on the counter, what was your thought in leaving it for me?”  Part of the game is, “You’re supposed to figure that out for yourself, it’s part of the learning experience.”  This often leads to frustration, like a game of hide and go seek in which one never finds the hider. Sometimes the lesson is lost.

Several sales people, over time attempting to attract my attention and build my appreciation, also send me articles. There is equal sport in their missives; although the articles come as attachments to emails — “I thought you’d find this interesting” or “I thought this was hilarious” — or in envelopes with similar notes, scrawled or printed on yellow (always yellow) sticky notes.

Some of the articles are transparent — the purpose is clear. Many others, less so. Frustration, again. How much easier the game, at least for the intended recipient, if the notes said, “I thought you’d find this interesting BECAUSE….”  As in, “…because I know you’re thinking about a new laptop” or”…because you mentioned you’re interested in differentiation strategies.”

The “because” has two purposes. First, it tells me the article sender is actually thinking about me; I’m not one of 30 recipients of the same article, crowned with the same scrawled yet tantalizing yellow sticky note. That increases the impact.   Second, it helps me get the point quickly.  I am somewhat less willing to play “guess why I’m sending you this” at work than I am at home (and I’m not all that willing to play at home, as it turns out).  That also increases the impact.

So, I’m a big fan of periodically and consistently sharing and receiving information, articles, recipes, and other flip flap of family and business life. They’re like greeting cards — nice to be thought of, often fun to read, sometimes worth a giggle, and frequently a boost to conversation and relationship. Just assume the worst — that your recipients’ brains are, much like yours, deluged with information. Give them a place to start. Tell them, “….because…”

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