Your intent is to provide comfort. Encouragement.
But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Saying “Get well soon” is not always the proper sentiment. Under certain circumstances, sending a “Thinking of you” or “Praying for you” card is a better option.
You want your written words to produce a positive emotional response.
A research article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal analyzed 30 years of data looking for a connection between patient attitude and recovery outcomes.
Positive words of affirmation and encouragement along with social support were all found to contribute to improved recovery.
Your encouragement and support can change how someone perceives their illness, recovery time, or hurt.
The key is writing words that comfort, not sting. Sentiments that strengthen, not weaken. Thoughts that bring healing, not those void of feeling.
Here’s how to correct the 10 most common writing mistakes incorrectly expressed in Get Well Soon cards.
1. Don’t just sign your name.
Your handwritten note is a conversation.
The recipient of your words of encouragement are expecting to talk to you. Hear your voice as they read. Picture your face, mannerisms, and appearance.
You may buy a card with a pre-printed message. But don’t let these be the only words they read.
Take the time to express your own thoughts. Your words are the ones with healing power. The power to encourage, heal, make laugh, bring joy and comfort.
2. Don’t use overly negative language.
If they are sick, your negativity can make things worse.
Words can inadvertently bring the wrong thoughts to mind: affliction, tragedy, catastrophe, depressed, miserable. painful.
Instead, use strong emotional words of healing. Words that paint a mental picture of well-being and success.
Remind them of their healthier selves. Let them picture themselves better. Take their mind off how they may actually feel at the moment they are reading your card.
Exchange their current state of weakness for lighthearted, happier thoughts.
3. Don’t be vague when offering to help.
You want to do something to change their current situation.
So don’t just offer. Make it happen.
Rather than saying “Just let me know what I can do to help”, use something more concrete. Take the pressure off them to ask for help or coordinate with your schedule.
A much better way to offer help is to create the plan yourself and simply inform them of your intentions.
“I’m stopping by tomorrow at 3pm and we’re going to play a game of cards”
“Don’t worry about things at work. I’ll keep an eye on your desk and consult you if I need help deciding how to handle anything critical that comes up.”
They’ll appreciate the help much more if it’s one less thing they have to think about.
4. Don’t be weird.
The normal you. The one they’ll recognize as they read your comforting words or funny remarks.
Yes, things may be uncertain or even grim. But that shouldn’t stop you from showing your personality. The you they’ve come to expect.
Write like you would normally talk. Just be uplifting as you do it.
Use common phrases you normally use. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re serious, be seriously encouraging.
They feel better just knowing they are “talking” to the real you as they read your handwritten words.
5. Don’t mention what you’ve heard from others.
Even if it’s true, just skip that part.
Others may really be concerned and discussing the possible prognosis. Offering advice on how others can help. Deciding the best course of action to cover things at work, home, or school.
You can let them know that others are praying for them, thinking of them, taking care of things for them.
But letting them know that others are “talking about them” or the specifics of what you’ve heard from others makes it sound like everyone’s gossiping about them.
Just focus on your conversation. Your relationship. Your inspiring words and thoughts.
6. Don’t describe what you would do in their situation.
You are not them. You may not have all the facts.
Offering advice could just deepen their unhappiness.
You may be missing a critical piece of information and instead be suggesting an option that’s not an option.
You may have been in a similar situation. Maybe you’ve gone through the same thing before. But saying what you would do can come across as judgemental and discouraging.
Advice is for face-to-face conversations. Only if you have all the facts. If they ask you for your help and you are willing to help.
Stick to encouraging them to get back to their old selves. You miss them.
When I feel good about myself, things start happening for myself. When you look up, you go up. – Herschel Walker
7. Don’t be a health care professional, even if you are.
We’ll skip the legal implications. That’s a given.
Your role is not to offer alternative treatment plans. Let the doctors and nurses on call do that.
Unless you are signing the consent forms, your job as a friend or family member is to offer support and encouragement. Not medical advice.
Patients have a hard enough time digesting and following the recommendations of their doctors. Don’t muddy the waters.
Keep things simple. Clear. You’re there for social support.
You’ve written so you could bring a little sunshine into their day. Help them feel better in the moment. That’s it.
8. Don’t discuss a time frame for their recovery.
You can’t see the future.
You can help them imagine a better one.
Injecting a simple time to resolution in your card can be more harmful than good. Sayings like, “I’m sure you’ll be back on your feet in a few days” can lead to disappointment if your words prove untrue.
Be vague here. Speak of future health and success, but don’t give a timeline.
Focus on encouraging the process not the end result. For example: “Keep your chin up during physical therapy. You can do it! You can never go wrong with hard work” is much better than “Just give it a few days in physical therapy and I’m sure you’ll be feeling much better.”
In sickness and hurt, time is relative.
Try focusing on pleasant memories of past experiences. How you’re excited to experience them again once they’re up to it.
9. Don’t share research you have found on the internet.
Again, don’t be the medical professional.
You may be concerned about your friend or family member. But scouring the internet will likely have you offering hope in unfounded remedies, depressed by the overwhelming odds, or left not knowing what to write.
Keep your writing in reality. The real one.
10. Don’t send a “Get Well Soon” card to someone who is not going to get well.
It seems obvious now that we’ve stated it.
Don’t absent-mindedly fall into this trap.
When someone you know is suffering from a disease, illness, or diagnosis that is chronic or terminal, pick a different card.
Situations like these require a different type of sentiment. “Thinking of you” or “Praying for you” is much safer for uncertain or definite situations.
Or, a well-written expression of love on a good ole’ hilariously funny card can be quite inspiring and uplifting.
Remember, they’re not dead yet. So, don’t treat them like it.
But do offer the right sentiment for the occasion, filled with your personal words of affirmation for your relationship.
On Your Next Card
Be real. Be you. Be encouraging.
Stick to the facts, except when they’re depressing. Instead, focus on the process.
Use words and sentiments that are light-hearted, that recount happy memories, and that fill the moment with delight.
Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Rodrigo Basaure.