The Note We Hope Never to Write – Sending Professional Condolence Messages
Sending condolences is never easy. We want to express our support, but do it in a way that is respectful and honoring. Everyone grieves in their own unique way, so it can be difficult to know what tone and style of note is appropriate. If you’re struggling to find the words to express your sympathy towards a colleague or customer, this guide on how to write a condolence message will set you off on the right path.
Don’t make assumptions
Try to avoid making any assumptions about how the recipient of your note is feeling. Phrases like, “I’m sure you are feeling,” or, “losing someone can be hard,” will often come across in the wrong way. Because everyone has their own reaction to a significant loss, it’s best to steer clear of any assumptions about how they are feeling or what they need.
Avoid clichés and dramatic language
If you want to come across as sincere in your sympathy and condolence messages, try to write your own words and avoid writing overused, clichéd phrases. While you may feel that the phrase, “Time heals all wounds,” or, “I am heartbroken for your loss,” may seem like the right thing to say, they almost always come across as insincere and over the top. The typical “deepest sympathy” message can have the opposite effect of what is intended. Instead of using this type of cliched language, try to formulate phrases of your own. Even if these phrases are simple and unflowery, they are sure to be much more meaningful than the typical Hallmark card phrases.
Stick with professional language
If you are sending any deepest sympathy message to a business colleague or client, it’s best to keep your language on the formal side. Think about your relationship with this colleague—try to match your linguistic style with your usual tone. Being overly familiar can be off-putting and being overly formal can be cold and strange for the reader.
Keep your note brief
Remember, it’s not about you! Keep your note to the point and avoid rambling on. Stick to concise sentences and try to keep your whole message to a maximum of one page. Excessively long letters can seem a little self-indulgent—try to keep things brief and to the point to keep the focus on the recipient.
Decide how to send condolences
When sending condolences to a business colleague there are several appropriate ways to convey your message. Firstly, you could mail a card or note to their offices. If you decide to send a letter in the mail, it may be appropriate to include a small token of your sympathy, such as a tasteful bouquet of flowers. This is likely going to be seen as a more meaningful and considerate gesture than sending a note via email or text, which may seem rushed. We’d recommend avoiding email unless you have no other way to contact them. You want to ensure the recipient understands the time and effort you’ve put in as a sign of how much you care about them.
Resist the urge to follow up
Most professionals are drilled in the art of the business follow-up from very early in their careers. Follow-ups can be an excellent way to ensure your business relationships continue to grow and flourish. Sending condolences is one case in which it is inadvisable to follow up. While you may expect a reply to your message, many people find the act of replying to condolence messages overwhelming and upsetting. Do not follow up to ask if they received your message. Simply get in touch again when an appropriate amount of time has passed to resume your professional relationship.
Striking the right tone in a message of condolence can be incredibly tricky, especially in a business scenario. If you avoid dramatic, clichéd language and keep your note full of genuine sentiments, expressed honestly and briefly, your note is sure to be appreciated.
Whether you choose to send a message via mail or via email, try to personalize your message by putting some thought into its design. Choosing a tasteful or meaningful card is a wonderful way to make an extra gesture for the recipient of your message. Once your message has been sent off, assume you will not receive a reply. The last thing you should do is treat this message as part of your business relationship. Instead, send another separate email to discuss any business-related topics after sending condolences.