The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Hard-to-Receive Letter

I have written before about the Hard-to-Write Letter and the letters that allow one to get things off their chest and move on. Letters that you might write to an ex-husband, a deceased friend or relative or a letter you might write to someone who you feel has wronged you.

Although this blog focuses on writing letters and the joy you can bring to another by sending a letter, I hadn't really put much thought into the experience of someone who receives the Hard-to-Write Letter until I received a letter this week that contained a few paragraphs that were Hard-to-Read.

The good thing is that while this letter was in transit, the writer had called me and we had discussed many of the things written in this letter. But once I received the letter and saw the words on paper, I was hit with all kinds of emotions. Perhaps these letters are therapeutic to the writer but not so much to the recipient. I want to be clear that the letter was not a sharing of feelings between the writer and I directly but more of a letter of concern regarding myself and another person. It was the assumptions and the miscommunications that preceded this letter that made my blood boil.  And what does one do with that? I suppose writing a letter back expressing my perspective and clarifying the misconceptions of the situation might have helped. But, honestly, I needed instant resolution and even email wasn't going to cut it.

I picked up the phone and talked with the writer for quite a while and thanked them for the phone call prior to my receiving the letter as I am not sure how I would have reacted had I had no warning of the contents of the letter.  I suppose if one is writing to really "give it to someone" who has wronged them then they're not going to care so much about the recipient's feelings. This was a different scenario but had me considering the importance of how and what I write to someone I care about. The writer of this letter is a dear friend and she meant no harm whatsoever. Her intention was to inform me of a situation that I was supposedly involved in. Had I been made aware of this solely through the letter, it would have been very difficult.

Letters are awesome in most situations but some situations warrant a phone call or a face-to-face conversation, indeed.


  1. When it comes to close friends, even the tough stuff needs to be said in person - those friends deserve and warrant the face to face time. Perhaps with a letter they've written in hand so that they've had the time to process/organize/clarify some of their own thoughts? I think following up with a phone call over a letter was a good idea. Glad you had a heads up...
    just my 2 cents, of course.

  2. I hear you Julie. Without wanting to delve to your specific details... I wonder, more generally if sometimes the sender lacks the ability to put it together in conversation - or they don't feel stong enough to "battle" it out verbally. For whatever emotions get in the way - is it best to let somethings just go unsaid? What if there never is enough cooling time.

    I like to think I would want a chance to talk it out...but sometimes some conversations are just too charged. A letter is so one sided... and then there are all those words you can never take back. Do we just never write those letters or do we just try to keep the audience more in mind? Who are we writing them for I guess answers that question. And do those "therapy letters" ever really need to be mailed?

    I worry if sometimes the mental outbox isn't like some kind of email program... (sorry for the analogy) but you know what I mean when that one big email is jambing up the other things from getting out? I guess ultimately one has to ask what's at cost. I would never want to damage a relationship with a one-sided letter I think... and ultimately think sometime you should just talk it out to save the blow - especially if you have potential for having misconceived notions. If the relationship is beyone repair anyway... is there much to be gained? So each hard-to-write author must decide for herself.

  3. I think one writes the letter because they want to put down all their thoughts (that can be good or bad).. maybe without interruption if that's the word I want (i.e. a 2-way conversation). Sometimes we write it and re-think and never mail. But I think talking is the best way, discussing one's feelings and thoughts..if it can be with someone who listens and isn't just considering their rebuttal while you speak. When we think/feel we are being attacked for something, our skins become very's human nature..people assume without truth. It depends so much on the other person in the could all be cleared up with frank discussion OR some issues can never be resolved. I think I would prefer to know what someone thinks of me (or the issue) than to be friendly with someone who has a misconception about me...does that make sense? If something particular is not discussed, how can we ever resolve it or if someone has the wrong idea about our actions, they'll never know the truth if it's not discussed. You see I could explain this much better verbally!

  4. Very interesting post. I think deciding between which is better- a letter or a conversation- depends so much on the relationship between the two people. There are loved ones I would feel most comfortable speaking to about something difficult, where the power of body language, expression, and tone would be beneficial. On the other hand, there are others I would rather write to, as the other person might distract me from my train of thought, or my purpose in communicating.
    I had a difficult exchange with a friend once, that started as a conversation, then I wrote a letter, then she wrote back, and then was finally resolved in person. It was a good combination!

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