I wrote letters to all the people I love—Then I read them to them
Back in October, I visited a few coaching friends in Vancouver Island, meeting them in person for the first time.
While at one friend’s house, we were discussing the things we felt incredibly grateful for. The same thought popped into my head that always does when I ponder what I appreciate most: my tribe of friends, family, and colleagues.
But this time, I had an insight.
Rather than vaguely trying to express this more to the people in my world, I decided I would be as intentional as possible.
I would craft hand-written letters to those who matter most. I would thank them and explain as best I could why they mean so much to me. Then, I would read the letter to them.
I’m not even close to totally completing this task (which I think is a good sign). But I have done several and would like to share what I’ve learned.
1) Expressing gratitude is euphoric.
Let’s get the selfish stuff out first.
Anyone who’s ever done a metta (loving-kindness) meditation knows the immediate rush of joy that comes from truly wishing someone well. We imagine someone we love and we picture them being free from harm and fear. We envision them being totally fulfilled. We see them laughing with the people they love.
This felt more impactful because I was sitting five feet from each person I read a letter to.
I could see their smiles and tears. I got to hug them afterward. I got to hear them stumble to find words that match the moment.
The idea of the exercise is to leave nothing up to the imagination. “Here are the specific reasons why I love you.”
Once that message gets across, the powerful connections I had with each person felt twice as strong.
2) This exercise is the easiest thing to do that brings life-changing results. Low input; very high output.
That sounds kind of businessy. Let me explain.
Each letter takes about 20 minutes to write. I type it out in a Google Doc first. This only takes about five to ten minutes because it’s effortless to write words that are sincere.
Then it takes another ten minutes for me to put pen to paper and transcribe the Doc.
The next time I would see the person, I would: tell them what I did, grab the paper as they panicked, and start reading it aloud.
In less than 40 seconds, our relationship would become wildly stronger.
I even gave this as a Christmas gift to my aunt and uncle. I have no idea if that’s just a cop-out from getting a “real” gift. But they both absolutely loved it so I think I’m off the hook.
3) There are a lot of things we keep to ourselves.
Here’s what I mean.
I’m lucky to have candid and loving relationships with my friends, family, and colleagues. But no matter how open and communicative we are with one another, there will always be thoughts and emotions we feel that the other person isn’t 100% aware of.
That’s also why I suggest doing a feedback exercise with those close to us. It paints a clearer picture of the lens our friends use to look at us.
We can let our actions tell the story. That’s a lovely thing.
But we can also remove the middle-man and get right at the heart of things. I’ll end with an example.
I wrote one of these letters to my dad.
In it, I told him what he did that meant the world to me. Last year, when I decided to not go back to school, quit my full-time job, and start my own business, I thought he’d be furious.
I was out front of my mom’s house, pacing on the sidewalk, when he told me on the phone I had his full-fledged support.
When I relayed this to him in my letter, he had no idea about the impact of that moment.
All this to say: We can always express our love and admiration for people more than we normally do. There’s always more to know.
I highly encourage anyone reading this to write just one letter to someone they appreciate. Tell them why they’re loved. Tell them what they mean. Tell them how much they’re needed.
Then see how they light up.