Affirmation cards are like business cards, except that instead of spreading your contact information, you're spreading affirmations about others.
As an introvert who struggles with vocalizing compliments, printed cards are a tangible reminder to myself to affirm others. Because they have pre-printed compliments on them, I don't have to worry about finding the right things to say: I can satisfice on wording for the sentiment quickly. The idea came to me through a somewhat unrelated pin on Pinterest. As far as I know, they're not common (yet!).
It turns out that people really like to get compliments. You can use the cards to strike up a conversation, or to avoid actually talking to the recipient. Pick your own level of comfort with interaction and spreading joy.
Where the cards came from: story
I picked my favorite 10 affirmations (from asking my Facebook friends and my head), and printed 800 cards at Moo. I thought 800 was overkill, but I got a little click-happy and figured the cards would last forever. Plus, they gave a substantial discount for getting that many. When I told Facebook about the cards, lots of people wanted lots of cards to distribute: all 800 (+more!) were requested in less than a day.
My colleague Kate Anderson and I are engaged in a project to study the growth and shape of the PER community. Kate pointed out that I should have printed a link to our survey on the back of the cards (in retrospect, DUH!). She printed another 800 with similar affirmations and a link our survey on the back. At this point, I thought we were a little crazy, but maybe all our friends were crazy too and it would work out.
After the cards came, I mailed 400 cards to people I wasn't going to see soon. Kate, my students, and I distributed the remaining 1200 cards (minus a dozen I found while unpacking) over five days at the summer AAPT meeting in Minneapolis. The cards were everywhere, and people kept asking for more. Invited speakers got cards as part of their introductions. Attendees tucked them into their nametags for easy distribution access. A handful of them returned to me, and I passed them back around.
I was unprepared for the outpouring of love and support around the cards. Some people cried when they got a handful to distribute. Other people planned to take some home to share with colleagues. We gave a bunch to a waitress at a bar that was unprepared for 50 physicists to descend on a slow Wednesday night (we also gave her lots of tips). She was thrilled. Cassandra Paul printed more to share with her students. I think this is an awesome idea!
On a broader level, this project is another example of the wonderful things our community does simply because it can. If you have another wonderful idea, don't wait to ask permission. Just do it!
Where the cards came from: logistics
I chose Moo to print the cards because their minicards are very high quality and can stand multiple shares. I use their minicards for my own business cards. I especially like how each 100-pack can have up to 100 unique images on one side, and consistent text/images on the back. The minicards are somewhat smaller than regular business cards and are very shareable.
If you want to print your own -- and I think you should! -- here's a referral link. The link (which is not at all required) gives you a small discount and gives me a small kickback, which I'm going to roll into making more cards to distribute at future AAPT meetings. Moo doesn't have a mechanism for you to print my exact cards, so you will have to be creative. That's a good thing, because you should replace my contact information on the back with yours.
If you're like me, you might struggle with which affirmations to print. You can poll your friends or borrow some of mine. If you print some of your own cards, I'd love to hear about it!