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How to Respond to Angry or Emotional E-mails

We all get bent out of shape once in a while; I mean its human, right? But what happens when you’re on the receiving end of a vitriol filled, rage infused electronic correspondence (that’s email for any one that was born after ’99). Although your first impulse would be to respond with the fury of a vengeful deity that has just witnessed hubris (I know that’s a labored metaphor, you should be used to it by now though), it might be smarter to take these simple steps when responding to angry or emotional e-mails.

1. Breathe

First, breathing is imperative to staying alive and second that joke was lame, but taking a moment to collect your thoughts and calm yourself will help you respond in a more reasonable way. Go over the message again; make sure that in your heightened emotional state that you didn’t misinterpret what was said. Allowing yourself a small margin of time might even help the person that sent the email initially to reconsider and even maybe apologize. I said maybe.

2. Clarify

If you feel that the tone of the email was unjustified, trying asking the person that sent it for some clarification. The aggressive nature of the email might even just be a result of the sender jumping the gun and given the opportunity to review might even recede their previous message. On the other hand, the person might be justifiably enraged by a behavior or action that you are wholly unaware of, and although ignorance isn’t really a valid excuse, it can definitely help calm the anxiety on both ends.

3. Short and Sweet

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Just like you were inflamed by the angry email by interpreting it as angry, the sender might interpret your response as hostile also. The best way to avoid this is by not giving it enough space to be interpreted incorrectly. Keep your response level-headed and short. If they need specifics, they’ll most definitely aggressively (I assume) ask for them. This brings us to our next point, too.

4. Straightforwardness/Accountability

Yes, if you messed up you should definitely fess up. Nothing feeds the rage monster more than rightfully accusing someone of an infraction only to get deflected with false denials. If your mistake is truly dire, it could cost you your job, but not admitting to it will also make the person accusing you perceive you as dishonest and probably inflame their temper even further. Just taking on the chin and move on, if your faux pax was serious enough it would have gotten you sacked anyway.

5. Face to Face

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Sometimes the best way to respond to an intense email exchange is to break the chain. The anonymity of electronic means of communication allow us to feed into our less than flattering emotions, like festering unbridled rage and by breaking down that wall it can help all parties involved come to a calm and collected resolution of the problem. This is especially true if you are wrongly accused because your body language and facial expressions will hopefully help your accuser see that you are being honest.

See Also: How to Calculate Your Burn Rate

Do you have any other suggestions for answering an angry or an emotionally charged email? Let us know in the comment section below.

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