Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

The letter you’ll never send

Recently, I found myself reflecting on some of my significant childhood experiences and I felt compelled to write about them in detail. Because I was writing without the goal of being edited, published, or shared, I found myself freely sharing intricate details and profound reactions. I didn’t enforce any censorship or feel any fear of repercussion whatsoever. I simply let the freedom of thought and memories flow from my brain straight to the keyboard. I found it fascinating and validating when I read what I wrote.

When I’m working with someone who is challenged and consistently frustrated with an individual, team, or particular situation at work, one of the exercises I recommend before the individual considers addressing the person or group directly, is similar to my recent experience with writing.

If you’re in this situation, I’ll recommend that you grab some time when you’re settled at home and write a free-flowing letter to the person or department that is driving you nuts. Be sure that the letter is set up to be stored in your personal archives ONLY. I encourage any language, name-calling, or feelings that might come up as you write “from mind to keyboard”. Just let it all hang out. Once that first draft is written, put the document aside for a day or two. When you revisit the letter in 24 to 48 hours highlight only those sentences and thoughts that address the business impact or are clearly centered on creating a positive outcomes and better working relationships. Focusing on the business-centered points—versus your emotions—is a great way to help you prepare for a direct conversation that may reap significant positive results.

Even if you choose not to address the situation directly (although I do recommend it), at the very least you’ve given yourself the opportunity to flush out some of the built-up emotions that may be getting in the way of an improved relationship or work environment.

So…if you find yourself consistently upset by someone or a group at work—or someone in your personal life—try writing the letter that you’ll never send.


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