The Time-Tested Ritual That Deepens Relationships & Builds Intimacy

Photo: fizkes /
Smiling woman reads a letter

When you're not face-to-face with someone, how do you communicate? A tendency to rely on texting, emailing and social media quickies can constrain possibilities. Even a phone conversation of depth is ephemeral.

Another choice is available: the unlimited benefits of writing letters. Letter writing is an effective, inspiring way to enrich your personal and professional relationships. You may have already experienced how the personal and professional merge and morph into one another through friendships and shared projects.

Step Away From The Keyboard — And Just Write 

Maybe you’re like me. My keyboard addiction has reduced the clarity of my handwriting so much that I can barely read my own. Then, I increasingly revert to printing. But what I’ve learned about letter writing has convinced me to practice cursive writing again.

If you think letter writing is an old-fashioned, dated pastime, you can transform it into “dates with yourself and others.” Its sustainable freshness brings the open-ended benefits and pleasures you’ll see below.

The very act of letter writing and what it elicits is a healthy adventure. See what evolves for you.

RELATED: 6 Communication Tips The Most Alluring, Charismatic People Know

Writing by hand could make you smarter

Among other experts who support the benefits of handwriting is William R. Klemm, Ph.D., senior professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University. 

According to Klemm’s article, there is a unique relationship between the hand and the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Learning cursive writing
is an important tool for cognitive development that “integrates sensation, movement control, and thinking.” He adds that “brain imaging studies show that cursive activates areas of the brain that do not participate in keyboarding.”

Klemm compares the benefits of letter writing with learning to play a musical instrument. Presumably, continuing to use handwriting also activates a broader range of your capacities implicit in the haptics field of research. This studies the integration of visual, and tactile information with fine motor dexterity, all contained in handwriting.

RELATED: 7 Benefits Of Using Writing For Self-Discovery

All the more reason to add communicating with another person on paper to talking to yourself through keeping your journal by hand. That combines the physical advantages of handwriting with hearing and capturing your own voice, sometimes not done until you shape the letters on the page.

Making a date with yourself ensures some private time and a record to re-visit for insight and appreciation of who you are and what you want. That capture will also show developmental progress as well as when you may get caught in repetitive loops that keep you static. Even better is preserving the worthwhile experiences that you may otherwise forget.

The joys of writing and receiving letters from the heart

In Isabelle Allende’s introduction to Eduardo Galeano's The Open Veins of Latin America, she tells the story of a stolen trunk of love letters belonging to an old man. Rather than destroy them, the thieves decided to mail back a letter every week. The old man felt “crazed with joy” as he received what he thought was a message of love from a woman each week.

If not a traditional love letter, imagine writing to a good friend who has stood the test of time and trust. With one of her best friends from high school, a 20-year-old
friend continues a letter-writing process that she describes as "thematically random and perfectly chaotic."

RELATED: 173 Thank You Messages To Write In A Meaningful Thank You Card

They are “compilations of a month’s worth of updates, inner ramblings, and working drafts of poetically-written prose.” For additional fun, they include affectionate tokens such as a packaged favorite tea bag, a playlist of songs, and sometimes a stamp for the next letter.

What Chloe loves about her exchanges with Megan is the personal experience of almost hearing the sender’s voice as she reads her handwriting. She finds it easier to be honest about herself when writing at length in pen, not liable to editing.

A colleague offered her valuable two cents about the “wonderful pleasure in selecting a card or notes or stationery.” She adds how much she enjoys “curating a
collection of correspondence materials that feel like they reflect you and/or the person you’re writing to.”

For me, it is confirming to create each letter of the words, reveling in their slants and unique framing in my increasingly readable writing.

The width of each stroke and color of ink on the page, if you choose a pen (for penwomanship, of course!) adds to the expressive experience.

For another purpose, consider the often worthwhile risk you could take to express your love or liking for someone. Putting your feelings and specific reasons on paper
also clarifies what has meaning to you about the person.

Even if you do not mail it, the process of writing a letter that expresses caring gives rise to the possibility of a more authentic relationship. Then, you may generate new possibilities or relieve yourself from endless what-ifs and repetitive meanderings of thought associated with avoidance of sharing your feelings.

RELATED: 7 Strong Communication Skills People Who Know How To Make Friends Have In Common

Letters can solve or at least ameliorate problems and issues. Regardless of how conflict-averse you are, letters are one choice for addressing lingering issues. They
may be significant, habitual, or just niggling.

One significant example was a longstanding issue a client had with her father; they had been out of touch for a few years, in fact. I asked her if it would make sense to
write him about what was on her mind as well as her hopes, without expectations and acrimony. She did that within a month or so. Later she told me her father had died
unexpectedly and how relieved she was that he had read the letter.

Of course, this is an extreme and serious example. But there are many issues that color and distort the quality of relationships that postpone improvements or perpetuate feelings that rob people of aspects of their quality of life.

What one matter will you choose to address with a letter within the next week? In other words, how much longer will you perpetuate an issue? When a letter is
promising or appropriate, use it to avoid postponing possibilities and losing precious time for you and the recipient.

RELATED: The Annoying Thing People Do With Their Voice That Makes Them Immediately Unlikable

Empower yourself by writing one letter

The very movement of writing a letter to someone else or yourself in a journal or alternative writing platform can accomplish at least two things. First, it will engage and strengthen a wider range of your intellectual and physical capacities. Second, doing it can open new paths for yourself as well as the other person.

As you become comfortable with such communication, each new effort will flow more easily and be more enjoyable. Start your new adventure now by writing one letter to someone you value. Who will it be? When will you do it?

RELATED: Why Journaling Is The Best Form Of Self-Care + 10 Writing Prompts To Spark Creativity

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. She guides clients in accessing their strengths and making viable visions for current and future work. To access Ruth’s seventh book Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future and benefit from her invitation for a free consultation, explore her website.