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Taking the Emotion out of Angry Letters

02/03/2015

Recently there was a bit of an upheaval at my work (the company of which shall remain unnamed, but everything here is of my own opinion and not theirs, so they hold no liability for what I write). This upheaval left me angry for several days, and it was really a culmination of many things, the least of which was my immediate manager quitting. I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep, so at 3am I got up, turned on my computer, and typed up all of my thoughts and feelings.

Emotion-filled letters like that are very therapeutic and indeed, writing that one helped me to get at least a few hours of sleep. However, the reasons for my feelings really did need to be addressed. Although emotion can be a very strong motivator and persuader in an argumentative essay, there is no room for it in a professional setting. If anything, hurt feelings will harm your argument more than help it because, really, it isn’t about you. It’s about whatever the root cause of the problem and the way to fix that problem.

So, how did I take the emotion out of my angry letter? I did a few things.

1) I took a day to calm down. That extra time, now that the anger and hurt were out of my system, allowed me to start thinking of my problem more like one of the case studies I did in my MBA programs. If I didn’t connect to the problem too closely – if I pretended it was someone else having the problem who I didn’t know – then I could disconnect my rage and it didn’t show through my writing while still keeping my unique voice.

2) I reworked my letter like crazy, changing the format of the letter from “Here’s what happened, here is why it hurts, and this is what I want to do about it” to a simple “Problem/Solution” format. Slowly but surely I undid my original letter and re-wrote it so that it sounded completely professional.

3) I had someone who didn’t know any of the people about whom I was writing proofread my paper. This was most crucial, because my mother is a really good letter-writer herself, so she was able to make it so that any lingering traces of emotion were removed and that all my thoughts were comprehensible. Apparently when I’m angry I write long, stupidly complex sentences jamming together waaaaaaay too many ideas. Who knew?

Ultimately, nobody will see any letter you write until every word is the way you want it, so taking the time to make a powerful argument is well worth the time and effort!

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