Misunderstandings abound in e-mail. Most times due to not taking the time to make sure that the message and intent is clear, while the other side reads into the e-mail things that may not be there.
When it comes to business e-mails there those who in the midst of their frustration or aggravation will whip off an e-mail thereby coming off as more terse or demanding than the situation calls for. They are busy, in a hurry or frustrated — so tip-tap tip-tap and off the e-mail goes! It is a fact that this approach will have a negative impact on their relationship building potential.
That is why it is always so important (for both sides) if you get an e-mail that has a tone that gets your feathers ruffled or makes you raise an eyebrow, to follow these two simple steps:
Before Replying to a Rude Business E-mail:
- First, take the words at face value and don’t assume anything. If you are not sure of intent or the tone relayed, pick up the phone and or e-mail for clarification before you spend the energy being upset or worse, snapping back with an emotional response.
- Second, take a deep breath. If you are sure the other side is purposefully trying to be upsetting or rude, wait until the next day to reply. And when you do, if at all, read your response out loud to double-check that the tone of your response is apropos.
This Happened to Me This Week…
There will be those rare occasions where no response is the only possible response. I just had one the other day. Someone lecturing me and making demands for modifications to some of the content on one of my sites. I receive suggestions all the time from site visitors. If they are provided in a constructive and kind manner, I incorporate them then thank the e-mailer for caring enough to make them.
In this most recent case it was not constructive or kind — more demanding and condescending. Out of habit, I did start to respond point by point and quickly realized that there was no positive response to be had. The “gripes” they had were clearly because they were taking the content out of context and almost as though they were looking to pick a fight. The only response that would have been acceptable to this person was for me to do what they said and agree to their premise. I could do neither.
When you do respond that doesn’t mean that you have cater to rude e-mailers either. For those who can only communicate by being nasty you have an opportunity to show them how true professionals communicate. Create a response that will be in a cool, measured and professional tone sans emotion. Always, always, take the high ground. In my situation above, the e-mailer left no room for me to respond in a positive manner. So I didn’t.
You Know What Happens When You Assume…
Customers assuming they can type as they please simply because they are “the customer” or because they can do so while safely hiding behind these screens are not always right. When I do respond to these type of e-mails I do so calmly and address their comments or concerns in a detailed manner that is based in facts and professionalism.
A great majority of misunderstandings are because the sender (contacts, associates, coworkers) does not realize how the words they chose and how they chose to use them (formatting, bolding, excess punctuation, red text, caps, etc.) may be perceived. Add to that a recipient assuming what the sender meant. You know what happens when we assume?
Regardless of which side of the message you are on, professionalism and courtesy combined with clarity will rule the day!