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Should I Write My Friend a Letter to Let Them Know I'm Mad at Them?

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Jotting down her thoughts...
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Question: Should I Write My Friend a Letter to Let Them Know I'm Mad at Them?

I have a friend who I have known a long time, but whenever I try and bring up things that are bothering me, she cuts me off. I feel like I never really get out what I want to say.

Recently, we made plans for dinner and a movie. We were halfway through dinner before she told me she couldn't make the movie. I had canceled other plans in order to go with her, so this really bugged me. Naturally, she left our dinner right away and I never got a chance to tell her how upset she made me. This isn't the first time she has done something like this. I feel like I should write her a letter to let her know how upset I am. Do you think that would be a good idea?

Answer:

On the surface, writing a letter or email when you're upset with a friend seems like a reasonable thing to do, especially if you're introverted or you feel that you express yourself more easily with the written word. This is also something that people who get "talked over" want to do, believing that their friend will hear them out this way when they wouldn't before.

However, when you send a letter to first let someone know you're upset, it can feel like an attack. Perhaps you've tried bringing up the situation naturally and it hasn't worked out. You believe that your friend knows that she has done something wrong and therefore you think a letter will allow her to see your side a little better, especially when she hasn't been willing to do this before. However, this usually isn't the case.

Angry Letters That Start a Bigger Fight

What usually happens when a friend receives a letter saying you're angry is that they feel attacked. Even if you brought up the issue several times in the past, there is something about seeing that information in black and white that will make the person feel as if you've been sitting around waiting to pounce on them. What's worse, it won't have the intended effect of actually helping them to see your side of things. It will put them on the defensive, and they won't want to listen.

If writing out your thoughts helps you clarify the situation in your own mind, you should write the letter to your friend but not send it. Instead, read through it to help you rehearse what you'll say to your friend. Sometimes when you write out your thoughts in this manner, it will help you clarify the issues you really want to cover. For example, if your friend routinely blows you off when you make plans and then also fails to listen to you when you express your anger over this, that's two separate issues. In one, she needs to respect the plans you make, and in the other, she needs to respect your feelings and listen to you. If you said both these things to her at once, however, she might gravitate toward one and ignore the other. Instead, focus on what's most important to you in order to get your friend to pay attention to the issue and work it out.

Writing out a letter can help you organize your thoughts so when you do talk to your friend, you're prepared. However, don't sit in front of her and read the letter (that's just as bad as if you had sent it.)

Talk to Your Friend in Person

There's no getting around the fact that in order to work out the issue, you need some one-on-one time. Talking to a friend in person is always the best option, but if you can't do that then a phone call will also work. Emails usually only make matters worse, because then you're each going back and forth and dumping out words to your friend. Both of you are trying to get your point across and neither of you are really listening.

If you want to set up a time to talk with your friend, you can suggest it through email, but don't get into the details until you talk. In other words, don't send an email that starts with "I'd like to talk to you about" and then immediately goes into the issue. This will kick off an email fight and your friendship will end up in a more fragile place than it was before.

Tell your friend you'd like her to hear what you're trying to say in regards to the subject you're angry about, and that you care about the friendship. Then, set up a time to talk in person or by phone. If she doesn't want to do that, she probably isn't really your friend.

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