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WWLD? No. 2: Keeping Connected
Lance Arthur | Nov 14 2007
Our great friend, Leslie Harpold, passed away in December of last year. In addition to being a swell pal and an old-school web mandarin, Leslie was an endless source of advice and opinion on
In Part One, I relayed a few of Leslie Harpold's amazing and simple methods of looking better every day. In this episode, it's all about staying in touch with the people in your life, and letting them know they matter just by keeping track of them from time to time.
I will confess that I am awful at staying in touch with anyone. Friends, relations, friends of relations, pets... you name it, I have at one point or another completely lost touch with it. I have no excuse, really, and there are a few simple things that Leslie would do to help her not lose touch with those people in her life who were important, whether for personal or professional reasons.
1. When you come across something you know would be perfect for someone else, buy it for them.
Me, I tend to think about Christmas presents for my friends right about, oh, Christmas. Yes, I am one of those people who puts it all off and doesn't even start to consider what anyone would actually enjoy receiving until the shelves are cleared of all their stock and I am left hoping that everyone loves a good Lifesaver's Gift Book as much as I did in Elementary School.
Leslie, by contrast, was always Christmas shopping. She would jot down offhand comments that friends would say about things (remember keeping a pen and notebook handy in your bag?) so that when you received your gift from her, it would be something you either wanted or needed rather than something she felt obliged to buy for you. And when she was out shopping for herself, either online or IRL, she would occasionally run across things that she knew would be perfect for someone else's stocking, so she was keeping other people in mind even when she was focused on her own needs.
It's not a hard step to take, and once you start doing it, it'll amaze you how much more you come to understand your friends based on their likes and dislikes, and it's easier to build up a picture of them and know how they're likely to react to things based on what you know about them.
2. Send Thank You notes.
When you receive something from someone else, it's important to let them know you appreciate the time and effort it took them to think about you, and reward the courtesy with a little token of thanks. A written note is a much nicer compliment than an e-mail, and it doesn't take more than a couple of minutes to write one and mail it away.
This step also does double-duty by making you keep track of people's contact information so you don't have to continually ask them for it. We tend, in this electronic age, not to remember street addresses and phone numbers, relying on our mobiles to remember who called and what number to call them back. Keeping an address book may seem old fashioned, but doing so allows you to easily send out baby gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts and any other kind of token of friendship and appreciation that allows us to continue to like each other in a monetary fashion.
Leslie even thoughtfully provided a step-by-step method of composing and sending thanks at one of her stomping grounds. Take a trip over to The Morning News and refresh your manners.
3. Don't rely on your cell phone to keep track of your phone numbers.
This is a lesson learned from necessity, and one I've only recently adopted. Keeping all your phone numbers in your cell phone is easy and simple. For one thing, it's semi-automatic. When someone calls your cell, you can capture their number immediately and store it in your phone's memory. Asking friends to call you just so you can keep their number on your phone is a tried-and-true bar habit, particularly since remembering anything when you're on your third Manhattan is a chore in itself.
But when you lose your phone -- and you will lose your phone -- what do you do then? It's a little annoying to keep asking friends for their numbers, and it could make them think you don't think much of them, even enough to remember their phone number.
Get an address book, get a contact app for your computer, synch your phone using bluetooth, just do something to keep those important phone numbers somewhere other than your phone. You'll be happy you did, believe me.
4. An Instant Message is not a phone call.
Leslie rarely, if ever, had her Instant Message window open on her desktop. She wasn't trying to shut herself off from the outside world, rather it was a conscious decision on her part to stay connected to her friends. For her, the impersonal and abbreviated nature of instant messaging created a communications wall that was hard to penetrate, because the mode itself forced one to type short messages without any nuance, character or personalization. And even a smiley face couldn't overcome that.
It may have been overkill on her part, but how often are you actually hearing the voice of the people who are important to you anymore? I'm far from being a phone fan, but I'd have to side with Leslie on this one. Instant Messaging has its place, but it shouldn't replace a phone call -- or even better, a nice sit down over coffee. Make contact personal, and make personal contact.
Lance's What Would Leslie Do? Series
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