Conflict Zen Blog by Tammy Lenski
What’s the best way to re-establish communication with someone after a falling out? Here’s how to write an email that will help you reconnect after no contact and set the stage for talking in person or by phone.
A new reader wrote me with the question,What is the best way to email someone after a falling out? It’s been about a year since she and I have talked and I’m ready to reach out. I want to write an email that she won’t just ignore and won’t start the fight all over again.
An email like that has to go beyond the typical. It needs to be fresh and forward-facing and kind. It needs to be self-aware and self-responsible without calling out their contributions or signaling your expectations of them in return (because that’s just an invitation to return to fighting).
It needs to warm up the frozen space between you without using a blowtorch. It needs to open a door and make it possible she might want to walk through it.
Here’s one way: What if you were to share a list of things you learned or realized as a result of and during the silence between you? It might look like something like this (with your own list, of course):
Hello, [Name] –
You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve realized a lot of things as a result of what happened between us. I thought I’d reach out and share some of those things with you.
That when I’m 100 and looking back on my life, my friendships and relationships will be some of my most treasured memories. That I probably won’t even recall most arguments I’ve had. That it’s good to spend energy on what really matters. That I don’t want to be 100 before seeing my life more clearly. That I don’t want to leave lots of debris in my wake.
That bad things can’t be magically erased, but I don’t have to let them blot out the good. That there’s something to learn from the things that get under my skin. That when I only think about what’s gone wrong in a relationship, I’m missing part of the story. That I want to see whole stories, not carefully edited ones.
That apologies — real apologies, not those fake ones — are hard. That owning my contributions to what happens around me is amazingly freeing. That hard journeys are less hard when I just start putting one foot in front of the other. That we’re all just kind of putting one foot in front of the other.
That long silences suck. That I let them take on a life of their own and fill in the blanks with stuff I’ve just made up in my head. That I crave connection with people who inspire and challenge me. That I want to be that kind of person for others. That I want to show my kindness more visibly more of the time. That I don’t always need to be right.
That I don’t want the silence between us to win. That I want to be a good friend to you and have you as my friend again. That it won’t be easy or perfect or comfortable all the time, but that I want to be in it for the long haul.
Thanks for reading. I’d like to phone and catch up. Will you answer my call? Please say yes.
This post was inspired by Paul Ford’s How to Email with an Old Friend After Falling Out of Touch.
Dr. Tammy Lenski helps people resolve conflict in ongoing business and personal relationships and bring their "A" game to difficult conversations. Since founding her NH-based conflict resolution firm Myriaccord LLC in 1997, Tammy has worked with individuals and organizations worldwide as a master mediator, executive coach, speaker, and educator. Author of the award-winning book, Making Mediation Your Day Job, she recently received the Association for Conflict Resolution’s prestigious Mary Parker Follett award for innovative and pioneering work in her field. Her second book, The Conflict Pivot, was released in 2014.