2 AM and I’m still awake, writing a song
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to.
As those of you who have been following for a while know , I take a lot of inspiration for ideas from music. Except in this case a discussion connected me back to a song. These lyrics are from an Anna Nalick song called Breathe, and to me reminds me of times when i have felt compelled to write to someone about a burning issue.
That in itself is a great idea! What doesn’t always turn out so well is when I send what I’ve written without taking the opportunity for some reflection.
A few weeks back I was chatting with a friend about an email that he had written but not sent. My friend was aware of something with a potential to form a negative influence in their office and had some strong feelings about this that he had written down in an email to send to the key leader in the office.
This email was not “threatening the life it belongs to” but the subject matter was very important and my friend wanted to help/contribute/express himself on the topic.
In our discussions we worked through the options that we saw in this situation. Whether to send the email, withhold the email but seek out a discussion or to let it go, either forever or simply until the right time arose. In this situation, my friend made the decision to let go until the right time appeared. From an observer perspective it seemed like the process of writing, discussing, thinking and deciding allowed him to arrive at a decision he was at peace with.
But that and Anna Nalick got me thinking about the value of writing our thoughts down when we are wrestling with an issue that is important to us, particularly one where we are quite personally engaged and feel a need to express ourselves to others.
Personally I’ve always thought writing my thoughts, addressed to the other person without actually sending them is a very beneficial exercise. The equivalent of a deep breath in a tense face to face meeting.
What are some of the benefits that we might gain from picking up a pen, putting hands on a keyboard, etc? Here are some that come to mind for me:
- We get a chance to safely vent. We get the emotions associated with something important out of us, but most importantly into written word that we can review.
- We get a chance to organize our thoughts. Once the words are captured we can look at them and structure them and add (or subtract) from what we truly believe.
- We get a chance to contemplate sending these thoughts and how they might be received. This lets us shift from a perspective of look what is happening to me to what impact might I have on others.
- We get a chance to read our thoughts from the others perspective and shine another angle of light on the issue. Now we’re really getting somewhere! We start to examine the issue from another’s perspective and in doing so start to examine the rationality of the issue.
- We get to think about how we might phrase things differently. We start to build our new-found insight into another person’s view into our communication.
- We get a chance to look for alternative approaches to a written communication. A part of thinking about another’s perspective is that we now may consider a dialogue instead of a one way communication like an email.
- And above all we get the chance to decide whether the issue at hand is worthy of being brought into the open. At the end of this process of examining what was at first an important issue to us, we get to now decide if it is something that is an issue that needs to be address, or merely one that we had to put into perspective for ourselves.
Writing things down is a very valuable tool. But how valuable it is as a tool in resolving interpersonal or sensitive issues?
On one hand it is possible to be very precise in our words and therefore articulate very clearly what we are thinking and feeling. On the other person we are not in control of how the other person interprets our words, and in most cases we won’t be present to note reactions and respond with clarity.
We have all been recipients of what we felt were poison pen missives, flaming emails, toxic notes, snot-o-grams, etc. Are we sure of our interpretation?
I think over time my ground rules have evolved to where I now rarely send an email in these situations. The risks outweigh the possible benefits. I now look to personal conversations (face to face if possible) where I’ve concluded I need resolution. But more often than not I breathe deeply and come to the conclusion that the other person was doing their best, and that needs to be honored … other opportunities to discuss the situation will arise.
What are your thoughts in this area? Do you write out your issues or use other tools to resolve issues? When you write out your thoughts how often do you send them?
And as always when I take my inspiration for a post from a song, here is a link to Anna Nalick’s Breathe.