Replying to rude emails: your chance to look professional

Yes, reading a rude email can push your buttons. But before you hit ‘reply’ remember that this is your chance to look good. Remember the power of the written word and keep your reply calm, cool and collected with these tips.

Read twice, respond once

Never assume that people mean to be rude. Sometimes their true meaning gets lost in cyberspace. Perhaps they quickly emailed you without thinking about the tone of their message. Or maybe an attempt at humour has fallen flat. It’s always worth re-reading a seemingly rude email. Even if someone clearly intends to be offensive, don’t let them bait you. Wait until you’ve cooled down before you begin typing your response.

Focus on the issue

Remember that hidden beneath the nasty language and aggressive subtexts, there lurks a real issue. For example, a customer may be angry previous interactions with your business. Or a colleague may be feeling unfairly treated. Focus on the real issue. Don’t react to the emotions which surround it. Make sure your reply is brief and clear. Stick to the facts, rather than feeding accusations or insinuations. If you can’t solve the problem immediately, explain how you’re dealing with the issue and when you’ll send an answer.

Review before you hit send

Your fingers may be itching to click the mouse, but wait a moment. Always read your reply with an objective eye before sending it. Is your message clear? Have you responded to the issue rather than the insults? Is your tone helpful and constructive, rather than sarcastic or angry? Have you avoided using emotive language? If you’re unsure, ask a colleague to look over your email. And it’s a good idea to proofread your message too – don’t give toxic people extra ammunition for their next attack.

Avoid the back and forth

It’s all too easy to get caught in an email groundhog day. You reply to the first angry email, then another equally angry email pings into your inbox. If someone continues to send emails about the same issue, be assertive in your reply. If you believe you have answered their question, say so. For example, “Your question was answered in my previous email, which I have attached for your information. I now consider this matter closed.” If their emails continue arriving, it’s time to refer the matter to your manager or HR Department.

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