Over the years, I’ve written many letters to individuals, companies and organizations who I feel have fallen short of a reasonable standard of service. I have been pleasantly surprised on the minority of occasions in which I’ve received an excellent response in the form of an apology, taking responsibility and attempting to atone for the bad service. However, even in the majority of instances in which the response has been inadequate, I have benefitted in many ways from writing such letters.
As a result, in my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist I often recommend that my clients write letters of complaint when they are upset as a result of not having received good service. In the following sections, I will discuss how you can benefit from writing these kinds of letters.
Getting your concerns addressed
One obvious potential benefit of writing a letter of complaint is that you have a chance of getting your concerns addressed. Although from my experience this happens in only a minority of instances, there are some companies and people representing them who genuinely try to address concerns raised by their customers. Some of them may do so because it is the right thing to do and others may do so because research indicates that customers who have their concerns addressed tend to become even more loyal customers compared with before their issues arose.
Managing your anger effectively through constructive communication
One of the hallmarks of effective anger management is addressing your concerns through constructive communication. Writing letters allows you to communicate your points constructively because you can take your time and craft your arguments in a well thought out and calm manner without being interrupted or feeling stressed.
Contrast this with the challenges of communicating your concerns face-to-face or on the phone with a company official. These include having limited time to talk, having to think of your points in a rushed manner and trying to convey them while dealing with the other party who may respond with defensiveness, criticism, interruptions and even hostility. Although there have been times when I have raised my concerns verbally if circumstances were favourable to doing so, on most occasions I wait until I have time to sit down and calmly articulate my points in writing.
Improving your self-esteem by setting boundaries
Setting boundaries involves responding assertively to others when they treat you improperly. This response conveys that you demand and deserve to be respected. In turn, setting boundaries increases respectful behaviour toward you.
Research also indicates that people who set boundaries regularly are likely to have better self-esteem and self-confidence and be in a better mood on an ongoing basis compared with people who do not set boundaries. Writing letters of complaint to those who have treated you improperly is an excellent way to engage in boundary-setting.
Decreasing rumination and resentment by putting the matter behind you
Being mistreated often leads to ruminating which is characterized by dwelling on negative thoughts fueling anger and resentment. Although it is reasonable for a person to engage in ruminating after being mistreated, the rumination and resentment pattern usually interferes with moving forward from the incident and focusing on enjoying life.
Writing letters of complaint allows you to achieve closure and move on with your life by communicating fully and constructively the various concerns which are the focus of your rumination, anger and resentment. Regardless of the quality of response you receive to your letters, the benefits you derive from ‘making a statement’ in this manner will make it much easier for you to put the unpleasant experience in your past.
May you follow the advice in this article to the letter,