I admit it; sometimes my pen is lethal. For that reason, I have invoked a three-day rule. I hold on to my scathing notes to see if time changes my thoughts. I have saved some important relationships with this small act of prudence.
We have all experienced hurt, disappointment or anger at the hands of another. It is sometimes difficult to attempt a phone call or face-to-face meeting to discuss volatile issues. The downside is that the injured party often shouts or starts to cry as they try to get their point across. They also risk instant feedback or rejection. It is easy to hang up the phone or walk away from someone during a confrontation.
A well-written communication (or a poorly crafted one) changes the playing field. In days past, they went out by regular mail and one had to wonder if the missive was even received. Today’s technological advances include email and social media messages. Both offer the advantage of virtual return receipts. It is also easy to see if a note was deleted without being read, or just not accessed.
Words put to print are everlasting. It is much more difficult to erase them than those said aloud. I inherited some handwritten nasty grams written to a deceased family member. Ironically, she kept them among her many treasures. Sadly, they made me angry with the party who wrote them to her. I might never have known about the disagreements if it were not for the perpetuation of the letters.
With all this in mind, I would like to give some advice regarding the composition of notes intended to express malcontent:
- Consider your objective. Are you looking to end a relationship or repair it?
- Accept responsibility. Readers are often surprised when someone admits that their actions were merely a reaction to yours.
- Outline the basis for the conflict. (For example, we are best friends for 20 years and you betrayed me.)
- State the exact concern. Often, those who hurt us do not realize it. This is your opportunity to speak uninterrupted.
- Suggest a solution. Is this a “kiss off” letter? Or, do you expect an apology and plan to move on?
- Reread your words. Not once, twice, three times. Hold on to them for at least three days. If you are merely venting, consider placing your missive in your journal. Make sure there is a purpose to sharing your words.
What happens next? It is a gamble once you put a stamp on the letter or press the electronic send button. The recipient may agree with your point of view. I venture to say this is a rare reaction. It depends on the relationship. Some readers will take the time to write back to you. This might not always be a good thing. Be prepared for negative feedback. Do not be surprised if your note is ignored. Put yourself on the receiving end. How would you react?