Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (book)
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray is a very famous book which looks at some of the differences between men and women, and how they can mend their relationship. I read this book in 2005, a year before my first actual relationship, which may seem a little unusual, but I'm still very glad I did! Even though it's a little out-of-date and repetitive in places, this is an amazing book to read. If you always feel lost when it comes to understanding the opposite sex, or if you're having bumps in your relationship (and NO relationship is perfect) I would highly recommend reading it. Buy it now! There's a reason it was a best-seller.
Not only does the book explain some of the fundamental differences between men and women, and we both need/crave in life, but the same principles used to maintain a relationships between partners - communication, honestly and effort - also applies to relationships between friends, house-mates and even the people you work with. It's all about respect and communication. One of the most valuable things I read about in this book is John Gray's concept of a love letter - and it's not what you'd expect. The love letter they talk about is a structured letter where you write down, firstly, why you're worried and/or angry at a person, but then start justifying why and finish by telling them why you still love and/or respect them (finishing on the positive is critical). And yes; I thought it was a little touchie-feelie/contrived at the time, but the advice in this book has already paid for itself ten-fold in my own life. I think everyone has relationships with friends, family, house-mates, or all the above, which are lacking understanding, and I've learnt that a simple e-mail (using the love letter format) can help fix something which should never have been broken, and when that happens, it really does take a load off. Since it was so long since I read the book, I'm not going to summaries it - I'm sure lots of people have done that... but I will copy a nice little summary of the most important part of the book: the love letter.
If you are experience difficulties in ANY type of relationship, the "love letter technique" is a powerful technique to get your thoughts into an organized order and resolve the problem.
Gray's "love letter" technique has five stages:
- Anger: The start of the letter is where the writer communicates his or her feelings of anger, resentment and blame at the other person. It basically involves variations of the sentiment "I don't like it when you....."
- Hurt and sadness: In the second section, the writer describes any feelings of sadness, hurt or disappointment. "I get sad when you...." is one example of a typical second-section sentence.
- Fear: This next section lists fears and insecurities that the writer feels. "I get scared when you....." or "It terrifies me that ....."
- Guilt, remorse: In this section the writer shares any feelings of responsibility and remorse. "I'm sorry that I....." or "I regret...." are typical examples of ways to begin a sentence in this section.
- Love: The last section is the appropriate place for the writer to describe feelings of love, forgiveness and understanding. "I forgive you for....." or "I really care about you and want to work this out" are good examples. The end of the letter is also the place to state a simple request or desire for an action on the part of the reader. "I would like you to....."
NOTE: There's a nice example of a love letter to a parent here
There are many things that make this technique powerful. First of all, writing allows give you the chance to chose your words carefully and also to say EVERYTHING you want/need to say. It's almost impossible to do this verbally without getting flustered and/or too upset or mad to get out the right words. Secondly, to write a letter of this nature (something meaningful and heartfelt) is so rare among people the person who receives it is far more likely to take notice than if it's merely being spoken to them. Trust me on that - the written word is very powerful - even in an e-mail. If you want it to be even more compelling however, make a hand-written letter - now there's something truly rare and powerful. Thirdly, written communication avoids the messy scene we all fear! The problem with verbal communication is it relies on a good time and place and even then there's a high chance of deflection or avoidance (especially if one or both parties are conflict avoiders). By writing your words you don't have to worry about the time or place. Letters allow the reader to slowly read what's being communicated time and time again. If you feel tension, then there's every chance they feel the same tension and the same desire to get past the obstacle. The reply they send will probably be every bit as heartfelt as your own letter - they're probably also very relieved you've opened an easy gate for communication and given a chance to make amends. Verbal communication presents a much greater risk of making things worse by creating a very awkward, difficult and in some cases an ugly scene (especially if both parties are emotional/head-strong). Finally, the mere process of writing down your emotions is not just liberating - it helps heal you. Even if you never end up sending the letter, you'll feel much better after you've finished writing it - you've worked though your emotions and rationalized all your complex thoughts-and-feelings into a much simpler form.... and *may* even figured out a way to resolve the issues in the process.
Nothing works all the time, but "love letter" technique is very effective at insuring that the full range of emotions that a person feels for another can be expressed in a very controlled way that often leads to more effective communication than merely "talking it out" can accomplish. Some suggest that these "love letters" are something you should write to yourself to sort things out in your head. I disagree - you should always write the letter with the goal of sending it! One important rule though: NEVER send an e-mail in the heat of intense emotion - wait till the next day so you can re-read it.
To help you out I've written a little template below. If you're good at writing down your emotions you won't need to stick to this exactly - but do remember that it's CRITICAL that the "anger part" is the vast minority of the e-mail and that you finish on a message of love, hope and it doesn't hurt to list out all the things you admire about that person!
Dear _____________ ,
I don't know if you know this, but I hate that ____________________ (1. anger part)
It really upsets me that _____________________________________ (2. hurt/sadness)
I fear that ________________________________________________ (3. fear)
I deeply regret that ________________________________________ (3. guilt, remorse)
I really care that __________________________________________ (5. love)
If you want some examples I suggest scratching the web! In moments of tensions it's easy to forget you have the option of writing down your feelings. My advice is try to NEVER forget the "love letter option". Moments of tensions come up in life all the time - often unexpected - and it's important to find an effective way to resolve them early or else it will all just become too painful to bear. Don't let that happen! Try this love letter just once and I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. All the best. :-)