Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Holiday Blankets = Fruitcakes
December 17, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media


Blankets are meant to keep us warm when it’s chilly. But blankets are not made for sending emails or making statements. I’ve seen a lot of my blogging colleagues write ranty posts about how impersonal a generic, blanket LinkedIn invite:

OK – so we understand the importance of personalizing a message via email. Blanket emails / invitations suck. The same can be said about resumes – customization of a resume to suit the job to which you are applying. You should never send a generic resume, and ESPECIALLY a generic cover letter. (“Dear Hiring Manager,” or “To Whom It May Concern” should be avoided if at all possible!) Tailor it to fit the position to which you are applying. Understood. We get it.

So, why isn’t this same concept of message personalization acceptable when making in-person statements? Why is it more politically correct to make sweeping, blanket statements in order not to offend people? No warm-fuzzies from this kind of blanket!

Case in point: it’s December. Hanukkah started this past weekend, and Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all happen next week. That’s 4 holidays, each quite different from the other. Yet, political correctness, and the socially mandated idea that we have to please everyone, demand that we say ‘Happy Holidays’ now, instead of customizing our greetings and wishes of happiness to our friends and family based on what they observe. And in my personal opinion, when you try to please everyone, as is evident in the above examples with LinkedIn and resume submissions, you in fact don’t really please anyone. ‘Happy Holidays’ in my opinion is a trite statement, kind of like when you pass a co-worker in the hallway and say “How are you?” with no real intent to stop and find out, in fact, how he or she really is.

So, in the spirit of this time of year, and in the spirit of making people feel special, I propose that before wishing someone a generic ‘Happy Holidays’ this year, you pause for a moment and ask them which holiday they observe (if you don’t already know). They’ll most likely be surprised because people don’t typically ask that question, and will probably answer your question. You can then proceed to tailor your greeting based on what they celebrate. My guess is that they’ll be pleased that you took the time to find out that tidbit of information about them, and chances are they’ll return the favor to you. Not only will you have made their day by doing this, but you’ll be remembered for being thoughtful enough to care and to customize your greeting!

I have been doing this for years when I go Christmas shopping. (by the way, I celebrate Christmas!) When I step into the checkout line, and the clerk wishes me a ‘Happy Holiday’ since they’re forced to in order not to offend anyone, I smile and ask them which holiday they celebrate. The clerk is usually surprised by this, but if they respond, say, with “I celebrate Christmas”, then I’m able to say “Merry Christmas to you! I celebrate Christmas as well.” If they respond with Hanukkah, I will wish them a Happy Hanukkah, and so forth. I can honestly say I’ve NEVER had a bad reaction to doing this, and most times I get an extra smile out of the clerk, and sometimes even out of the people in line behind me.

So this year, put your online networking etiquette into practice offline! Customize your greetings to the people you encounter and make them feel special.


2 Comments so far
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Your post is so timely and gave me pause to think! Before I explain why, thank you for referring to my LinkedIn article. Your reference to blanket statements and the blanket analogy is a very nice lead in.

I’ve gone from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” when greeting my friends who celebrate Christmas, Hannukkah, and Kwanzaa. Because we have a relationship, it’s not a big deal. We talk about our holiday plans and at the end of conversations the more specific greeting close the call/conversation.

This season I’ve noticed people simply going through the motions of their daily activities (for whatever reason). So in the spirit of the holidays, I give them the “look-in-the-eye-pearly-whites-cheer” of “Happy Holidays”. It’s disarming.

Yet what you’re talking about takes personalization to another level. Taking the time to stop and ask what the other person celebrates changes the nature of the conversation. Actually it starts the conversation and leaves both with a warm feeling.

Thank you for providing an important perspective this holiday season. It’s been a challenging year for many people but there’s a tremendous amount to be thankful for. And “giving” doesn’t necessarily mean going out to purchase something.

A gift can be as simple as giving a darn (pick your choice of word), when you stop for a moment, notice someone else (there are other people in the world)and ask a question that matters.

Thank you AmyBeth for showing a simple way to GIVE this holiday season!

Comment by Marian

This is awesome advice, wish I would have read Dec 1st. I am going to remember and apply to my holiday time greetings next year! By the way Merry Christmas!

Winter Solstice is a holiday?

Take care!

Comment by Keith Privette

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