When you have issues with a person in your past or present life it is often helpful to be able to express your ideas and feelings without having to worry about how that person is going to react. The unsent letters part of the program can help you do this in a structured way. You are asked to write three letters:
THE FIRST LETTER – The first letter is the ‘no holds barred’ draft. This is where you dig down deep and write from your heart. Don’t worry about form, spelling or punctuation. Don’t worry about how it comes out, of how horrified people may be if they knew you thought these things, or said them in such a shocking way. Do your best to write without censoring…if four-letter words come into your mind, put them down. The goal is to get all of your feelings, in their roughest form into the letter. The only important thing is that it expresses all of your important feelings.
Take a few hours or preferable a day or so to just let it sit. When you are convinced that it contains all of the important things that you need to say go on to the second letter.
THE SECOND LETTER – The second letter is a cleaned up version of the first draft. Correct spelling and grammar, delete all of those four-letter words, make sure it flows, get rid of anything that isn’t really important, etc. Basically you want to make it something that your 8th grade English teacher would be proud to see. Make sure that all of the key points in the first letter are preserved but this time do it in the most diplomatic way possible without compromising any of the honesty.
Take a few hours or preferable a day or so to just let it sit. When you are convinced that it clear and concise, well organized and logical – that it is a wonderful specimen of good writing – go on to the third letter.
THE THIRD LETTER – Finally write a third draft of the letter, this time imaging that you are the person that you are writing to. Read the letter and edit it so that the person would be most likely to be able to hear and accept the points that you are trying to communicate. Take into account all of the knowledge that you have of this person, the things that make them defensive and the styles of presenting ideas that help them to hear. If they are really into sports you may want to use sports metaphors, if they are really into their kids you may want to use family examples. If you think giving them an honest compliment in the beginning will add the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, start out with an honest compliment. Feel free to ask other people who know the person for pointers on how to get them to hear. Think of times when they have heard difficult issues from you or other people and try to get ideas from those examples. Again it is important that you do not compromise the honesty of the first letter at all.
All of the important points need to be replicated in the final letter, just modify it to the best of your ability to maximize the likelihood (no matter how slim that chance might be in reality ) of the person actually being able to hear and digest the points that you are making.
Think of your message as a gift of truth and you are the UPS guy whose job is to deliver this package of truth. You pick up the dirty, soiled package (first draft) and you clean it up and repackage it (second letter) and then figure out the best way to deliver it so that the intended recipient accepts it (third draft).
DELIVERY DAY – Finally its time to deliver this gift of truth. You need to decide that best time, place and setting to do the delivery. Then you can chose between 4 different delivery methods:
- You can send the third letter to the person.
- You can have them read it in your presence.
- You can read it to them.
- You can keep the letter in your back pocket as a hidden script for what you say when you talk with them.
Now you have completed your job, you have delivered the gift of truth to the right person in the best possible way. You are no longer responsible for what they do with that gift. Maybe they will react really well immediately, it may even change their life and help them become a better person. They might get defensive at first and realize how important it is hours, days or years later. Maybe they will just put up a thicker wall of denial. Maybe they will never talk to you again. It just doesn’t matter – you have done your best and you have learned how to deliver the gift of truth in a caring, responsible and powerful way. So celebrate, do something nice for yourself and count it as the success that it is.