We’ve all received them. Even if you’ve never had to read a rude email or comment through your business, you’ve likely had to deal with a personal one. I don’t know about you but first my stomach drops and then my ego kicks in and I get defensive.
Perhaps you feel differently when you read a criticizing email. Do you feel like crying? Or maybe it makes you feel anxious or small. Whatever your feelings are as you digest someone else’s words, I think this technique will help you.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to business is not to take it personally. I know. Waaaay easier said than done. But when it comes to responding, you don’t want to let your emotions get the better of you and respond in a way that will lead you to lose a valuable customer or gain a bad reputation.
Of course there are those people that you’d prefer to wave goodbye to with one finger and go your separate ways. But at the end of the day, it’s always better to be the bigger person in business and keep your good reputation intact.
Read the email, message or comment then open up a word document and start typing up your response.
I would avoid writing it in a draft email because I’m going to encourage you to let your true emotions flow, without a filter, and you DO NOT want to accidentally hit send on that sucker.
Write your message the way you’d like to respond in the moment. Defend yourself, swear, describe how their words made you feel…be petty if you like. No one will ever read this message so just let it all out.
After getting everything you’d love to say out, you should start feeling a little better. Take a step away and clear your head by finding something else to work on.
Once you’ve had some time away from the situation and you’ve cooled down, go back to the email and look at it from their perspective. Read it in a friendly tone instead of that snarky, condescending manner you’re imagining they wrote it in. You know you do it 😉
Even if their words are so harsh that there’s no other way to spin it outside of straight up rude, do your best to see them as a person. Imagine it’s your mom, brother, sister or friend and they’ve had a bad day and misdirected their anger towards you.
You never know what the person on the other end is going through. Although that’s not an excuse for treating someone poorly, it can put the situation in perspective and help you respond in a caring way, instead of being defensive.
Edit your original response and take out all the words you didn’t mean, wouldn’t want someone to read or think are silly now that you’ve calmed down. Draft another response.
If you’re still getting heated as you write your reply, repeat the steps from the beginning. Each time you come back, you should have a less emotional response until you eventually get to a place that feels right.
Once you feel you have a response that has removed personal feelings, give it as much time as you can before sending it. Sleeping on something is always best, if you can wait a day.
Ensure there’s nothing in there you’re going to regret saying and if you need a second opinion, send it to a friend or family member who’s removed from the situation and won’t have any personal feelings. They can tell you if your email has a snarky tone or seems unprofessional.
Copy that final draft and paste it into your reply email.
Here’s why I’ve found this technique so useful:
You get it out so you can move on
We get defensive when we read something for the first time we don’t agree with or that makes us feel like we’re being attacked. It’s really difficult to just shake those feelings off and get on with our day. I can try to refocus on what’s really important in that moment but those defensive arguments swirl around in the back of my head, distracting me until I address them. This technique gives those thoughts an outlet so even though no one has heard them yet, they’re out of my head and on paper.
You give yourself some time
I NEVER respond to an emotionally charged email immediately. You always need that grace period to calm down and ensure your emotions aren’t getting the better of you. If the message needs your immediate response, try to send the most neutral, short-winded reply as possible while you give yourself a minute. “Let me look into that” or “I’m just heading to a meeting, I’ll get back to you by the end of the day” may work for you.
It allows you to reflect.
I’m not saying your feelings aren’t valid but a lot of times we amp ourselves up and start believing our own B.S. We’re kind of like our own negative cheerleaders when it comes to conflict. Our egos rarely interrupt our thoughts and tell us we’re wrong. They’re usually agreeing and egging us on with more reasons being upset is justified. Writing down your unfiltered thoughts, taking some time to calm down and going back to read them can help us see if we’re blowing something out of proportion or help us look at it from their perspective.
Words can also be taken the wrong way, especially through writing. Writing down your response and revisiting it an hour or even a day later allows you to look at it with fresh eyes and maybe see; holy, am I ever over-reacting. They’re looking for a solution to a faulty product I sold them and my response sounds like they’ve just told me I’m a failure. I’d be upset too if something I just bought broke. It doesn’t need to be that big of a deal. I’ll just fix it for them.
You can see the bigger picture
Usually we’re fighting something; we don’t want to “give in” to the customer, admit we made a mistake or look like we don’t know what we’re doing. Take a second to ask yourself if it would be so bad to just do the thing you’re resisting.
At the end of the day, it’s much less stressful to find a way to get along. Nine times out of ten, an angry customer will turn into a loyal customer if you’re willing to make it right for them. And that tenth person? They’ll usually ignore your response and go their separate way. You can’t please everyone but if you make an effort to correct the situation, those you can’t please are less likely to badmouth your company after you part ways.
I think customer service has come a long way since the days of “the customer is always right”. You want to treat your customers with respect but if someone is being disrespectful to you, there’s always a way to respond that lets them know you’re not a punching bag and it’s not the end of the world. When that’s necessary, it’s important to put together a well thought out message that remains professional, which this technique will help you do.