Daily Archives: February 20, 2012

Monday Motivator: Tone is Everything

Yesterday, I received an angry email. The sender was not particularly angry at me. But it didn’t matter; no one likes to be at the receiving end of someone else’s anger.

Still, I answered the email, ignoring the anger and the accusations and simply dealing with the problem at hand. Within in two minutes, I received another email  from the person apologizing for the tone of the first.  So there was a happy ending.

But there were so many options for their not being one. Email seems to give us the freedom to explode upon people, using language in a way we never would in person. Problems that could have been handled with a quick acknowledgment and apology are made into battles where no one is happy and everyone feels attacked.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t make complaints by email. The person who emailed me yesterday had a legitimite complaint that needed to be handled. But the tone was such that my first inclination was not to help but to defend myself and maybe attack in response. And remember, this wasn’t aimed at me. It would have been even harder to bear if it had.

Perhaps the best thing to do when writing an angry email is to stop and consider the following:

  • Is your purpose to let other people know you’re angry and show your disdain for their lack of intelligence, common sense, respect, etc and you have no need to work with them again? Then go ahead and be as insulting and sarcastic as you like. (And read my tone here: I am being sarcastic!)
  • Is your purpose to solve a problem? Then edit that email for word choice and tone.

It seems to me that we have enough problems to solve without unintentionally adding layers of animosity and misunderstanding to them.