If face to face communication doesn’t work — and many never have the courage to really try it — a letter can sometimes serve a purpose. If you have to write a note, though, my thought is this:
* Make it very brief.
* Write graciously and write personally.
* Do not quote Bible verses. A pastor wrote 3 pages of Bible verses to me once trying to explain himself. I saw what it was and pitched it in the trash before I read it.
* Don’t try to justify yourself. You’ll likely be misunderstood.
* Never send it out the first day you write it. Sleep on it. When you reread it the next day, you may find your letter does more harm than good. If you have a check about sending it, don’t!
Have you ever heard of a happy ending when one person writes a long e-mail to another person, detailing the problem and potential solutions?
Conflict specialist Ken Sande writes:
“The desire to resolve conflict via the written word is usually rooted in two convictions: First, that we need to choose our words carefully (more carefully than we might in person), and second, that if we could just get the other person to listen carefully and attentively to our perspective, then the whole argument between us could be resolved. The first of those aims is laudable; the second is usually sadly mistaken at best and incredibly selfish at worst.
The next time you’re about to hit “send” to fire off an e-mail missile, just say no. Hit delete. Take the “No E-mail Missiles” non-proliferation pledge. Try sending a much shorter, kinder message that reaffirms the importance of the relationship in question and that invites further communication in person or by phone–communication in which you pledge to listen to the other party and to acknowledge your own contributions to the conflict. When it comes to conflict resolution, there’s simply no substitute for face-to-face or voice-to-voice.”