Maybe it is just me, but there are times where someone sends me an email that ticks me off. I can assure you, the worst thing to do in such situations is to reply right away. Instead, slow down and think about it. I have a 3 step process
- Go away for a while.
- Re-read the email, one sentence at a time. This slows me down and makes me truly listen to what the sender is trying to communicate, which often will let me get past any problems with the overall tone of an email.
- Fact-check it – If an email is causing such an emotional response, clearly it is pushing my buttons. Breaking out which pieces of the email are correct facts vs. incorrect facts vs. opinions helps to respond appropriately, which is often a balance between correcting my own reaction and figuring out what they said they made me react. If there is disagreement on facts, research which is true. (I am wrong sometimes.) This often will clarify the difference between our perspectives, either by laying out the correct facts or highlighting differing opinions.
When replying, I have a few more guidelines for myself:
- Ignore their tone. Which is a polite way of saying “Don’t feed the trolls.” Just reply to what the email said, not how they said it.
- Correct pertinent facts. Don’t be petty, just trying to prove someone is wrong, but if incorrect facts are driving an unreasonable request, correct them.
- Respond politely.
- Respond to the most important concern raised in the emails first.
- Respond to other important concerns after the primary point is covered.
- Ignore anything that doesn’t matter. (Sometimes nothing in an email matters, and no response is required.)