The Question Matters


Handshakes are Making a Comeback


Red Chuck Taylor All Star basketball shoe.

Image via Wikipedia

Retro is what’s next.  When my parents saw me wearing tight jeans in middle school, asking for Converse high tops, and listening to the Beach Boys sing “Kokomo,” their comment was predictable:  “Everything comes back in style eventually.”  Sure, Mom and Dad.

Not long ago, my five-year-old son asked for his first Transformer.  I caught myself wondering why I didn’t save the 50 or so Transformers I had when I was in elementary school.  Then, as if my parents had pre-programmed me to say it, out came, “Everything comes back in style, eventually.”

In a previous post, I introduced you to James Townsend who works in the Admissions office of LeTourneau University in Longview, TX.  In my conversation with JT,  I was struck by a comment he made regarding effective recruitment of Millennials.  Part one didn’t surprise me:

Ten years ago the students thought sending email was cool and chatted with one another via instant messenger.  They still enjoyed visiting with college admissions counselors by phone and receiving college brochures in the mail.  Over the past ten years that changed dramatically – email is only for business type communication, few of them use instant messaging – preferring to text or chat and post on Facebook instead.  Most of the college material received in the mail still went in a big box under the bed and [they questioned] why the college would waste so much money and kill so many trees to send so much unsolicited mail out.

Makes sense.  But JT makes an observation that surprised me.  Perhaps it will surprise you, too:

The trend we are noticing for 2011 is that students are coming full circle and now want personalized communications – actual phone calls, handwritten notes, and actual signatures on letters.

Sounds like the paper and pen factories better not close up shop just yet.  To what can we attribute this appetite for an “old school” approach to communication?  Here’s a few suggestions.  I’d like to hear yours in the comment section.

  • Face to face communication and note writing never really left.  They were drowned out by the never-ending buzz of social media.
  • High school students want you to bend over backwards for them, and they’ll test you to find out how far you’ll bend.
  • It’s about standing out among the noise.  10 years ago, standing out meant going with social media.  Now that everyone’s caught up there, it’s face to face communication and hand-written notes that make you stand out
  • Millennials value community much more than their parents do.

Let me read your suggestions.  And while you’re at it, here’s your coaching assignment.  Ask a 20-something, “What kind of impression does it make on you when someone takes the time to write a note or meet you in person?”

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4 Responses to 'Handshakes are Making a Comeback'

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  1. Andee Marks said,

    We are created for community. Technology may enhance community in a sense, but it can’t replace it. For all the fanfare about social media, in the end, it really isn’t the same as a person-to-person encounter. A smiley-face emoticon only represents a smile–it’s not the same as seeing someone actually smile at me. Typing “hugs to you” isn’t the same thing as feeling someone’s arms around me in a shared embrace. A Skype conversation just doesn’t measure up to meeting a friend in person for a conversation and a cup of coffee. Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and all the rest are still mechanical. We can try to capture the essence of human connection in all these different devices and programs, but it’s like trying to pin a butterfly to a board. One can still look at the butterfly and appreciate its lovely color and shape, but it is nothing in comparison to watching the butterfly alive, those colorful wings spread in graceful flight.


    • Hi, Andee. Thanks for coming by and commenting. I would agree with your statement that social media doesn’t measure up to a face-to-face meeting. I’d temper that, however, by saying that there are forms of communication for which social media and a “virtual” touch can serve much more effectively than a face-to-face conversation.

      Because of that, there are portions of community that Millennials (though now Xers and Boomers are following in their steps) have a greater appreciation for and, I think, are using those new forms of community to forge relationships in neither better nor worse ways, but different from those forged by my generation and the generations preceding.

      Social media is an example of the way in which a younger generation is teaching its elders, and the elders agree in the value of what the younger cohort is teaching.

      Keep coming by! I love your thoughtful response.


  2. Much of what is written here resonates with me, Trey. And quite honestly, I have to say to the first three points you make, “Everything comes back in style, eventually.” The only point I don’t agree with is “Millenials value community much more than their parents do.” I’m very puzzled by this statement. As a Boomer, (Generation Jones, actually) I value community greatly; however, what I look for in community might be different than what a Millenial seeks. As I think about my definition of community, it is family, friends and those with whom I’ve found shared interests and causes. In cities the cities where Boomers tend to retire, they often choose based on not only weather and services, but also community. I believe what drives their decision around community is ability to engage in interests they now have the freedom to pursue; causes near and dear to their hearts and/or leisure pursuits such as golf, tennis, boating, fishing, etc.

    My question is what observations drive your thought that “Millenials value community much more than their parents do”?


    • I think you hit upon a key element of this–when Boomers retire they seek community, now that they have the freedom, etc. Boomers and Generation X have been about the business of breaking down established norms of community, norms established by their parents and grandparents. In my opinion, this is one of a few reasons why Boomers have come to social media late, yet come in full force once they discovered it.

      In the workplace, Boomers fostered a “work your way to the top” mentality while Xers took a “keep your head down and do what you must” approach. Millennials are highly collaborative, and it’s a point of contention with the workplace as it exists in many places.

      I don’t suggest that Boomers and Xers don’t like people or groups, only that Millennials are demonstrating a valuing of community at an earlier stage of life than either Boomers or GenX.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!


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