In my books, noted below, I often lament about the lack of civility, deterioration of written communication and abuse of the power of the Internet. Electronic communication, in my opinion, breeds negativity and behavior which does not exist in direct communication.
The following is an except from my first book which addresses angry email replies.
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Before you react to in anger, consider some of the following points, and then take appropriate actions. Foremost, remember that an angry reply will seldom result in anything positive. The best approach is to consider the three Zs: namely, zero tolerance reaction, zeal in replying, and Zen attitude and tone. To begin with, it is critical to understand what the cost of a flame war can be to all involved. A flame war is a term often used to describe email arguments that are unfriendly. Many escalate into increasingly intensive language or tone. The second consideration is by creating a zero tolerance toward situations or persons. This attitude may prove to have or cause far more loss than gain. The first step should be to pause and not reply rapidly, which will benefit both sides (more of a Zen approach or the old count-to-ten approach).
By refraining from using zeal caused by anger, turn this instead into a situation where positives can occur. Consider the facts that prompted what is or appears to be an angry communication. Consideration should also be taken for any known or likely reasons that evoked an immediate negative reaction. Attempt also to visualize before you send a reply how to minimize any further irritation for everyone. When finally replying after a cooling-down session, ensure that, no matter what the outcome may be, matters are not made worse.
Alea jacta est.
The above words (The die is cast) were spoken when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.
Before email correspondence, parties crossed to a situation from which there is no return. One is better served to attempt to get clarification, inquiring in such a way as to seek further information, rather than to assume the worst. It is almost always best to ensure that no additional parties are brought into the communication, which could scarcely be of benefit for anyone involved and can only exacerbate the situation. Mail flame-wars or multiple, back-and-forth, hostile email exchanges end up bringing in additional people, which makes it far more difficult to resolve what was started. Keep in mind that it is easier and less painful to resolve what may initially be simple or innocent misunderstandings.
Sometimes, it may prove best not to respond to an angry email. This may provide a useful cooling-down interval and let a potentially time- consuming and damaging situation dissipate harmlessly. This situation can also contribute to increased anger from the original sender. There are several items to keep in mind when weighing this option of waiting. First, determine if a true question was asked or if an answer was asked for. Second, consideration should be given as to whether this is a personal, business, or necessary contact to maintain. Is the person or persons of significance to cause damage or continue a flame war with others you know? Perhaps the sender was bluffing or blowing off steam regarding a situation. Any of these considerations might have enough value to provide a logical reason to choose not to reply.
Finally, if one selects to reply, ensure that there is not a clouding of judgment. Take any steps, such as a delay of an hour or even a day, to provide for this. Consider also direct contact. The personal reaching-out and contact may be just the solution. Additionally, make sure all reasonable considerations have been made to understand everyone’s point of view. Realize that attempting to change another’s opinion, philosophy, or feeling of being may be misunderstood.
If and when one does reply, one should keep true to the Zen of the three Zs. Senders should seek to appreciate and understand the position or condition that caused the situation. When objective reasoning is in place, then a reply can be created. Senders should also go over any important items step by step. Keep the text at a minimum, with proper attention given to tone, attitude, and normal Netiquette considerations. Ask if your reply is deemed satisfactory, or if it requires more information, and inquire if a further response is necessary.If a determination has been made that an angry email sender is correct, it is essential to quickly reply and acknowledge what has been in error. If corrective action needs to be taken, good Netiquette is to clearly state what this is and provide a reasonable time line and explanation with all the particulars. If an apology is in order, it is important that it is done without delay. When this has been accomplished, a response for status is good Netiquette. If no response is given, one should not take offense. The recipient may believe the matter is closed. Lastly, decide if it is a reasonable action to inquire again, after an interval of at least several days, if all is in order. If no response again occurs, state that the matter will be considered closed if no further communication regarding this matter is tendered. At this point it is best to let the matter rest.
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