Lifting others, lifts you

How to write a testimonial, commendation or letter of support

Uplifting others lifts you

Have you ever written a letter of support for a colleague, neighborhood student, or someone you believed was a good person?

Have you ever been asked for a referral letter after a project is complete?


Did you feel uncomfortable?

Well, you are not alone.

Some people have balked when I’ve asked for a recommendation letter with unsatisfying answers like, “I don’t do business that way.” Or, “What if you make a mistake, and I lose face?”

“Curse not the darkness, but light a candle, instead.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt

While those are valid concerns, may I suggest they reveal more about the person who refuses, than the requester. For example, the first concern seems to ignore that all business is referral business. And, the second seems to be based in a fear of losing face.

Yet, isn’t it true that we vote for candidate politicians, with way less knowledge of the person than of the people we are asked to recommend? Why are some afraid?selection-64197_1280

As a mentor for young entrepreneurs, I’ve been asked many times to write letters of referral or commendation. It’s a satisfying exercise to lift up another person and in the process, feel better about yourself.

— Lifting others, lifts YOU —

When we support someone we show ourselves to be team players, radical collaborators with genuine insight into human nature and potential. And, a practice of being of service in this short life….

“To whom much is given, much more is expected.” – Anon

If you have not, or you don’t know the first thing about how to write a recommendation, read on. This post will show you how.

First, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Why are you being asked to recommend?
  2. Who are you to this person? What is your relationship?
  3. Who is the person you are recommending?

Once you are clear about those answers, begin to write.

In any recommendation, it is both you and that of the person you are supporting who share credibility. By that I mean, the letter is as much about who you are, as who the person you are recommending. Literally, you are sharing your credibility with the person you are lifting up. The letter becomes a shared moment of collaborative credibility.

“We can lift ourselves and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”
–Thomas S. Monson

All letters are more credible when your company’s letterhead or other affiliation header are used. Whenever possible, please do include your affiliation and letterhead. Bear in mind that you are speaking from this platform, and reflect the values and principles of your affiliation.

Ok, let’s get started. Here is the basic outline:

Your name:
Subject: Letter of Support/Testimonial/Commendation for Alexa Kamakani
Salutation: If it is for a specific position be sure to address it to that person. In the event, your letter is not time or position sensitive, you may use the salutatory address “To whom it may concern.”

Intro sentence: The reason or purpose I’m writing is to provide a commendation/testimonial for Alexa Kamakani.

Your title/position/role/organization: Describe who you are? Your program description or company role. 2-3 sentences maximum. Establish your reputation and credibility. Share your platform and personal presence, if possible.

Following, the letter writer describes the person who is being recommended. Establish your relationship, value and why you are writing to support them. This is the main background paragraph. It should answer, How know the person you are writing a support letter?

For example, it is common to share how many years you’ve known the person. This is the main story, and should be no more than 100-150 words. Be sure to answer some or all of the following questions:

  1. Why you are writing?
  2. Why you believe in her/him enough to write? mark-43913_1280
  3. What the person has done that makes her/him standout in your experience?
  4. What qualities do you believe make him/her appropriate for this job?
  5. How she has helped the world, your company?

Restate your praise, or core commendation/recommendation/testimonial sentence

Then, add the following sentence to close out your letter.

Feel free to contact me at any time with questions

Closing salutation,

Signature block, including your full name, title, affiliation and contact info: email, phone number.

Got it?

“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”—Oprah Winfrey

The next time someone asks you for a letter of support, say, YES.

You’ll be helping yourself by helping lift them.


Too complicated? Here is a simpler outline for a letter of recommendation:

Who you are? Title/Organization: subjective/objective
Why writing?
What happened? Tell the story
How you benefited?
Summarize your Praise
State a specific Recommendation

Helpful? Questions? Answers? More posts by the author.
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