Do you have an unresolved issue with someone who has led to not speaking or visiting with them for months or even years? Do you wish you had a way to resolve the issue, clear up any misunderstandings, tell them how you feel, and resume your relationship? Well, I have a proven solution that may work for you.
The best way to repair a relationship is to send them a carefully crafted letter. I’m going to give you a list of guidelines on how to go about it successfully later. For now, let me explain why written communication is the best choice when it comes to situations where emotions run high.
In a prior article entitled, “Verbal Communication versus Written Communication,” I wrote about the advantages of written communication over verbal communication in certain situations. Here are some of the advantages.
When you communicate in writing, you have the opportunity to select your words carefully without being interrupted by the receiver or affected by their non-verbal communication. The receiver must read your letter from beginning to end in order to understand what you’re trying to communicate to them. Since you won’t be present when it’s read, they will not be able to react instantly. Instead, they are obligated to consider your communication. They may get hurt or mad at first, but after they calm down they only have your letter to contend with, not you. Once it is read, the contents are inescapable. And since your written communication includes everything you wanted to say and in the way you wanted to say it, it is thorough and complete.
A friend of mine hadn’t spoken to her ex-husband for about three years even though their divorce wasn’t caused by any serious violations. At least my friend saw it that way because she was the one who left. Her ex-husband firmly believed that she left him for another man. This was not true. He also felt that she didn’t appreciate all the nice things he did for her during their marriage. All of these false perceptions left him very bitter and resentful.
This made my friend’s life very difficult since their lives were so intertwined with their children and business activities. He had also agreed to pay her monthly alimony in exchange for her agreeing to other terms in their divorce settlement. It was a complicated process because they had started and grown a multimillion-dollar business together that she was now being forced to give up. He never sent her one cent of the alimony he had agreed to. Her principles wouldn’t allow her to take legal action to force him to pay the alimony.
My friend explained to me that she had not been unfaithful and had no ill feelings about her ex-husband. In fact, she admired him and still loved him, but not in a romantic sense.
An accidental shooting and killing of her son by the police at their family home led to the disintegration of their relationship. The boy was the husband’s stepson and apparently, he never became emotionally attached to him. His inability to share in her grief pushed them apart emotionally. The story about the incident that killed her son is absolutely heartbreaking.
In this situation, her principles did allow her to take legal action against the police officer. Although the police officer had a history of questionable shootings, this information was inadmissible and she lost the case. She left her husband soon after.
As I learned more about their relationship during and after their marriage over several months, I suggested that she write him a letter. In the letter, I suggested that she explain the true reasons she ended their marriage, how she enjoyed their time together, and the ways she appreciated him now. I also talked to her about many of the items included in the guidelines that I’ll be presenting to you shortly.
The result was remarkable. A couple of weeks later his attitude toward her was completely changed for the better. And as time went along it only improved. He began sending her an alimony check every month, inviting her to join the family for holiday events and vacations, gave her a part-time job at the company they had started together, and he even brought her a new car! That was over four years ago. Recently he brought her another new car.
Although he never replied to her letter or even talked about it, his actions clearly indicated that it had a huge impact on him. Had she tried to communicate with him in person, she probably wouldn’t have gotten past the first two sentences before their tempers would have flared. And once angry emotions poisoned the communication, any hope for reconciliation would have been doomed.
I am amazed that more people don’t take advantage of written communication in these situations. Like my friend, I think many people lack confidence in their ability to write such a letter. I told my friend to list the topics she wanted to cover and then just write the letter from her heart. I also encouraged her to let a friend read it before she gave it to him if she needed some extra assurance. She did that and her friend suggested a few changes.
I think the number one reason people don’t take the time to communicate in writing is laziness. It’s a lot easier and quicker to just call or go talk to the person face-to-face. The problem is that unhealed wounds can cause instant emotional reactions that disrupt, derail, and prevent any meaningful communication from happening.
If you want to repair a relationship with someone, try writing them a letter. If you want some help on how to go about it successfully, follow these guidelines.
- Make a list of all the topics you want to cover, then put them into a logical order by placing numbers next to them, and then write in that order.
- Write from your heart and be courageous.
- Write from their point of view, not yours. This letter is NOT about making you feel better. It’s about helping them to understand and feel better.
- Do NOT use the letter to vent your anger, criticize, or complain.
- Write the letter in a spirit of fairness, goodwill, and love.
- Write the letter when you are in a positive state of mind and have favorable regard for the person you are addressing it to.
- If there is any possibility the letter might be used as evidence in any legal proceeding like a divorce, be sure to select your topics and words carefully, and do NOT sign or date it.
- Do NOT send them the letter the same day you’ve written it. Let it rest for a few days while you allow your brain to process it. During this time you may come up with more things you want to say and/or better ways to say them.
- Do NOT give them the letter in person. This will prevent any impulsive responses or confrontations. This strategy will give them time to think things through.
- If possible send them the letter by postal mail (snail mail). Email makes it too easy to send a quick reply and forward it to other people. If you do use email, ask them to keep your letter confidential and to consider it carefully before replying, if they choose to do so.
- If you are unsure about how it comes across or even about punctuation or grammar, ask an appropriate friend to read it. An appropriate friend is one who is levelheaded, fair-minded, and honest. Do NOT involve rabble-rousers, manipulators, gossips, or haters of any kind.
- Do NOT contact them if they don’t respond as quickly as you would like, or if at all.
- Accept that they may not respond in the way you hoped.
- Accept that their response may be negative initially, but they may or may not turn around later.
- Accept that they may not respond, and do NOT take any action if they don’t. This includes badmouthing them to family and friends.
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a positive response. This solution doesn’t work every time, but it will give you a sense of peace in knowing that you did what you could to repair the relationship. And your letter may plant a seed that will germinate and grow into something positive down the road.