How to Write a Good Condolence Note

Today is Tuesday, so this post is on positive personal impact.

If you recall, people who make a positive personal impact have mastered three things:

  1. They have developed and constantly promote their personal brand.
  2. They are impeccable in their appearance.
  3. They know and use the basic rules of business etiquette.

Sending condolences to a colleague or customer who has lost a loved one is a key element of basic business etiquette.  These condolences should be expressed in person, as well as in writing.  I always prefer a handwritten personal note to a generic sympathy card.  In the My Turn column in the current Newsweek, Jess Decourcy Hinds, shares her experiences with losing her father and her thoughts on how to write a good condolence note. 

Mr. Decourcy Hinds is a college English teacher.  She writes both from the heart and with an academic knowledge of her subject.  Here is a little of what she has to say…

“Condolences are some of the most difficult words to write or say…Writers often express themselves most freely when they know the rules of the genre in which they’re writing.  Here are my basic guidelines for mastering the Art of Condolence:

  1. “Always begin directly and simply.  ‘I am so sorry about your mother’s death.’
  2. “It’s better to ask, ‘how are you?’ or ‘how are you feeling?’ instead of telling someone how he or she should feel.
  3. “Never say ‘I can’t imagine what you’re going through.’  To me, this translates as ‘this is too hard for me, I don’t want to thing about it.’
  4. “Never give advice about how someone should get through the loss.  Some mourners go to parties; others stay home with the shades drawn.  Be open to the mourner’s individual needs.  Be open to the possibility that these needs will change day by day.
  5. “If you want to offer something upbeat, share a funny anecdote or memory about the deceased that might bring a smile to the mourner’s face.”

This is some great common sense advice on how to write a good condolence note.  Condolence notes are difficult to write – especially when you are close to the person who has lost a loved one.  However, they are important.  A well written condolence note shows your support for the mourner during a difficult time.  It also shows that you are a person who understands and uses the basic rules of etiquette in difficult situations.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


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