Reality Check: When We Recommend

Have you ever written a letter of recommendation? Some people, especially teachers, managers, or business and community group leaders, are often asked to write recommendations for people they know.
If you are not involved in the world of formal, paid work, recommendation letters may never cross your mind. However, the idea and the activity of writing them can have value anywhere.
Why are these letters so useful? Let’s take a look from the perspective of the ultimate recipient. That could be a potential employer, a community group, volunteer organization, and so on. They’ll use the information in your letter to help them make a decision.
Let’s say you are an employer looking to hire. How do you know whether a person can be trusted? Whether they are responsible, whether they’ll even show up? It’s rare that you would have personal knowledge of your potential hires, so how would you choose?
An honest personal recommendation can provide helpful insight that you may not get from a list of credentials or an interview. How we’ve conducted ourselves with others in the past provides important clues about how we are likely to conduct ourselves in future.
While it’s an honour to have someone write a recommendation for you, you can also consider it an honour to be asked to write one. Simply being asked says something about the relationship, doesn’t it? It says that there is confidence and trust in your relationship such that they are prepared to have you speak about them; about their character, work ethic, commitment, dedication, skills, and so on.
Likewise, receiving a letter of recommendation from someone you respect can be both heartening and enlightening.
Outside of the world of work, do recommendations have value?
Some of us feel pretty awkward about giving compliments. Sure, it’s easy enough to express ourselves when things aren’t to our liking, but if you’re not accustomed to sharing expressions of appreciation (all that mushy stuff) then it’s not easy to suddenly burst out with something positive, is it?
However, positive feedback can add real value to a relationship.
If you have someone in your life for whom you have genuine appreciation but you don’t like to talk about it, then here’s a suggestion for you. Write a letter of recommendation. Write it as if you had been asked to recommend them to a stranger. Think of their qualities that you know and respect and admire. And write them down.
When you’re finished, you can consider whether you want to share that letter with the person or not. It’s still your choice. You could hide it away, perhaps never to be found. You could mail it to them. Or you could walk right up to the person for whom you have such high regard and say, “Here’s something I’d like you to know.”
That step is up to you. Even if you decide to keep it just for you, the action of writing the letter could provide value regardless of whether it goes anywhere else or not. That action has motivated you to think about those positive qualities, your appreciation of which may now be better reflected in your interactions.
Have you written or received letters of recommendation? Have they made any difference in your life?

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