“What do you mean by sending me that product? Half of it was bad and rotten!” or “I want that person fired. I called and he was very very very rude to me! Does he know who I am? Who does he think he is?!!!” Everyone’s been there – You get an email that makes you do a double-take. Sure, the other person is clearly frustrated or angry, but you’re still expected to answer. What should you do? How do you respond?
Everyone’s been there – You get an email that makes you do a double-take. Sure, the other person is clearly frustrated or angry, but you’re still expected to answer. What should you do? How do you respond?
1. Take a Break
Take a break, cool down, read the email again to get the gist of the problem properly. The person who sent that mail was pretty upset and/or let his emotions dictate he wrote. Do not repeat this mistake. Take a break and let your temper cool down.
One of the advantages of emailing is that you don’t have to answer immediately. Sometimes it’s appropriate to take hours to compose a response! Leverage it. Even if you feel tension, and the other side is waiting for your answer—you surely have at least a couple of minutes. Get up from your desk, cool your mind, and have a snack or a glass of water. It will help you avoid a spontaneous reaction.
2. Don’t Jump to Conclusions
This is essential. In anything you do, don’t assume, nor jump to conclusions too quickly. Are you reacting the way you are because you’re reading between the lines? When you’re dealing with overly emotional emails, you may think you feel the anger or the frustration of a person radiating through the screen. And you’ll feel compelled to assume that there’s more to it that just what’s there. Yo agree, right?
Resist the urge to jump to any conclusions. Just read the words, receive the information, and prepare to provide a professional response.
3. Keep it Short
Use this simple rule: “Keep It Short and Simple (KISS). Remember the sender was really upset and is probably waiting/ expecting a fiery reply, and preparing to fire you another email. Thus, keeping in mind the possibility of a misinterpretation, make your answer as precise and straight to the point as possible—and nothing more. Forgo veiled responses to what the other person might’ve meant.
Structure your email in such a way that it carries only one main message. This doesn’t mean yo should write just one sentence, but it does mean that if someone criticizes your presentation and asks for a copy of the statistics you were citing, you base your response around providing the statistics (and not defending your credentials).
This way, you can be sure that the other side will read your response and will understand it exactly the way you mean it. The last thing you want is to defend yourself only to learn that your colleague wasn’t, in fact, criticizing you; but that she just phrased her feedback awkwardly. Avoid sarcasm as well. Keep it fresh and clean.
4. Ask for Help
If your email is not confidential then it’s appropriate to ask for help. Perhaps your colleague knows better how to deal with your enraged boss, or your manager can help you find the right approach to your confused client.
Everyone receives angry emails from time to time, even the best of customer service won’t stop you from receiving them from time to time. When you receive an angry email, don’t be offended. People send emotional messages when they’re not satisfied with something, or feeling disappointed, or even confused. You should operate under the assumption that it has nothing to do with you personally—so that means you shouldn’t let the tone distract you from doing your job and responding professionally.
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