Whether it’s an angry customer, co-worker or manager, we’ve all been at the receiving end of curt and downright rude emails.
And while your instinct is to give this person a piece of your mind, there are many things to consider before you say something that could potentially cost you your job. Because you’re not face-to-face with the person you are communicating with, the room for error and misunderstandings is enormous. Have you misread their tone? Is their feedback justified? Are they offering constructive criticism?
In responding professionally, you don’t want to overreact, but neither do you want to come across as a pushover.
Here are some tips to navigate a sticky situation:
Take a step backYou may feel tempted to blast off a fitting response. But take a breath and cool down – no matter how justified the anger feels – acting on it will do more harm than good. Come back to the email a few hours later when you feel rational enough to write it.
Get another opinionGrab a trusted colleague or friend to get honest feedback. Unlike face-to-face interactions, emails are tricky because they don’t convey tone, facial expressions and tone. You want to know how you come off to another person or if there’s room to misinterpret what you’re saying.
Be direct and straightforward While you don’t want to add drama to an already heated situation – it’s important not to sound defensive or subservient. By that same token, it isn’t wise to joke or say something sarcastic either. Be clear, concise and get to the point soon after your greeting or introduction.
ProofreadBefore you hit ‘send’, read through your email and pick out spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. Nothing spells unprofessional more than poorly structured sentences. Make sure all the necessary information is included in your message without it being too lengthy. Read it aloud if you need to (it’s the best way to catch any awkward phrasing).
Follow-up If you don’t hear back from the person – but feel like it’s important to make amends, then think about how you want to approach the follow-up. If working out a compromise is key, pick up the phone and suggest a face-to-face meeting. However, before hashing out differences ensure that the sole purpose of the meeting is to resolve the conflict.