When Words Matter: 6 Secrets to Healing Relationships with Language

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Whoever coined the phrase “actions speak louder than words” did not live in the age of instantaneous communication: social media, email and texting. We watch politicians polarize citizens and countries just with one Tweet. Most of us have watched as one email or Facebook post severed a personal relationship. These negative actions can be avoided if we treat words like gold and not like weapons.  Joan Gelfand, author of the new book Extreme, shares five simple rules to employ healing words:

1. Get Your Grammar and Spelling Straight


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 There’s nothing worse than being on the receiving end of a misspelled, badly organized communication. Not only does it diminish the sender’s gravity, it shows that little care has been devoted to the writing—which literally is what we’re all doing … writing texts, emails and e-cards.

2. It’s All About the Tone:

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Have you ever had a “bad email day” where one was misinterpreted? If your gut says that your writing might be misunderstood, sleep on it until you can read it again with fresh eyes. Unless your note is time-sensitive, there is tremendous power in waiting until tomorrow.

3. What’s the Takeaway?


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Writing should always be clear and concise. In many ways, your note, email or letter is a pitch to the recipient. Whether you’re writing a love note, looking to break up or apologize, don’t wait until the last paragraph to do so. State your reason for writing right up in the first paragraph!

4. The Power of Writing a Real Note:

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Many millennials didn’t get the chance to learn how to physically write script or handwrite a note. That’s a shame because sending a handwritten note shows thought, time spent on behalf of the recipient, and a tactic that will stand out above and beyond an e-version. Mailing a letter or card with a stamp can get the positive result you hope for.

5. Honor the Format You Choose to Write On:

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Writing on social media is different than writing a greeting card. If you are writing to apologize or reach out to a long-lost friend, a quick note on social media is fine. If your recipient is more formal, then a longer note or formal letter can work wonders.

6. Add a Quote to Make Your Point:


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Enhance your position, thoughts and feelings by adding a famous quote. The reason that people choose one card over another is because of a catchy phrase, a clever hook or tagline; in other words: content. If Walt Whitman says it better for you, it’s OK for you to pull a short passage to make your claim. Not only will the reader be impressed, but they will also know you’ve taken the time to do some research. If you’re going down that path, remember to always credit the author of the quote.

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Joan Gelfand is a writer, poet and critic whose stories, poetry and reviews have appeared in national and international publications, including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattle, Huffington Post, PANK! and California Quarterly. She coaches writers around the country and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a juror for the Northern California Book Awards. She is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, Adam Hertz, and two beatnik kitties, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. For more information about Extreme: A Novel, please visit www.extremethebook.com.

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