Well, there wasn’t much interaction in response to my first posting. Oh well, there is a lesson to be learned. Reconciliation requires connection. Perhaps a blog entry isn’t an effective way to connect. Or maybe there isn’t much interest in reconciling. That would be too bad, but maybe people really would rather hang on to anger and resentment while sacrificing a relationship.

I think this was a nice example of the difficulty making a connection, which is, of course, the first step. That step, though, can be pretty uncomfortable with lots of things standing in the way. So, instead of being positive, I’m focusing here on some things that prevent  establishing the connection that leads to reconciliation.

Once upon a time it wasn’t possible to “tell someone off” without being at least face to face, or maybe phone to phone. Now if you want to vent your anger, all you need to do is send an e-mail. That way you don’t have to see the humanity in your target’s face.

Back in my college days, it used to be possible to act on second thoughts. It was probably a daily occurrence that the mailman (sic) found at least one girl waiting by the drop box to plead to have her angry letter recovered. Second thoughts. But that e-mail, once out there, is committed.

So, what about sending the e-mail? Under any circumstances, it should be policy to think about the purpose of your message. If reconciliation is your goal, then there has to be an opening for further communication. In that case, it’s a good idea to follow my mother’s (and grandmother’s) advice and assume there is good in the other person. That assumption would require avoiding “you” statements.

If the goal is to cause pain for the person who has become your enemy, then use lots of “you” statements. The word “you” doesn’t have to appear in the sentence, but it is conveyed when blame is placed without any recognition that there may be imperfection on both sides. Reread the e-mail. Have you said something like You were wrong. You had no reason to do what you did. How could you be so thoughtless? I never guessed you were that kind of person.

 Another variant on the “you” statement is attributing motive to your “enemy” as if it were fact. You only did that because you have no ability to understand how other people feel. Or maybe, you were just using me to get back at someone else. Or, worse yet, it might be attribution of a personality characteristic. Obviously you were being passive aggressive.

“You” statements are pretty sure to hurt the recipient. If that’s the goal, then there’s no sense even talking about reconciliation. The victim of the accusation(s) has very few options: be silent, be defensive, or retaliate. None of those things work to heal the relationship.

So, what are the practical lessons?

  1. Count higher than ten; think carefully about your goal; if you want to cause pain for the other person, as in “I don’t get mad; I get even” then vent your anger with no opening for a positive response.
  2. If you want to avoid reconciliation, then be accusatory. Demean, accuse, blame your chosen opponent.
  3. If you are not up to confronting the person whose actions hurt you, then consider avoidance. It won’t add to your comfort – or heal the connection –or make you feel better about yourself. But maybe it will be better for your new “enemy.”

Here we have a page of ways to prevent reconciliation. And this seminar is supposed to be about ways to encourage reconciliation. So, I call on you. Any positive lessons to be applied?


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  1. I’m enjoying this series. You have so much expertise in this area. I bought your book titled “When to Forgive” several years ago, and learned to much. I think that it’s better do say, “I feel . . . .” rather than “You did. . . ” Issues can be brought up, without accusing the other person.

  2. Healing takes such careful, thoughtful work! I have become the ‘silent partner’ in some of my relationships that should mend. Only because there is no desire to do so on the other side.

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