Emails are one of the easiest and the most efficient ways to communicate with each other. In 2017, the number of emails sent per day averaged to a staggering 269 billion! While admittedly it is a convenient medium, it can, at times result in unnecessary conflicts between people. Sometimes either the message in the email is misunderstood, over-explained, half-explained or is just intolerable. If an email (or the response to it) triggers negative emotions, then expect chaos and confusion.
How about some introspection?
Have you ever responded to snarky emails in irritation or misunderstood the message? Did your response worsen the situation? Was there a back and forth of emails? Do you think you could have dealt with it more maturely? Most of all, did you realize it is much better to get away from behind the screen typing an angry response and actually have a discussion?
Every email exchange will have a background story. You cannot make assumptions. Suppose you are being asked to step back from a responsibility you were initially accountable for with no explanation, for instance, then you have every right to ask questions. But make sure you’re not doing this on email.
Let’s have a look at a couple of things you can do to avoid an ugly fight over emails:
When you get an email or a response you were not expecting it becomes easy to lash out angrily or sarcastically. It’s natural. But the mature way of handling such a situation is by having a face-to-face conversation. Reply with, “Hey, let me know how you are placed today. Meet at 4:00 pm possible?’ Make yourself heard in real time. It makes a huge difference because once you are in front of each other, you tend to be careful about your conduct. You will think before you speak and remain restrained in your tone which is both necessary and important.
Schedule a call
If you can’t set up a meeting or a video call, then schedule a call. It’s the second best option to resolve a situation that is on the verge of going out of hand. Rather than jumping to conclusions focus on the substance of conversation you intend to have with your colleague. Pull out all the facts in the open and keep emotions from interfering. You might feel vexed at first, but what good will it do if it’s clouding your judgment?
Focus on having a discussion not an argument
When you’re together over the phone or in a meeting room, make it a point to focus on having a discussion that will help both of you reach a mutually agreed solution. Don’t start a blame game that could result in digressing from the conversation altogether. Don’t dig buried skeletons. Be respectful of each other’s time and insert phrases that establish your need to have a constructive argument. ‘I respect your opinion, but don’t you think …’ or ‘I understand why you’d say that and your point is valid too. However,…’. You see, you want to be on the same side and so you have got to see things from other person’s point of view too. That is what prevents a discussion from becoming an argument.
Draft a thought out response
Can you neither speak on the phone nor meet? In that case, sleep over it. Don’t respond unthinkingly or in haste. Logically draft your email that is free of emotions that you first felt when you received your colleague’s email. Your main goal should be to steer away from all the fluff and write a response that is on point. One of the best exercises is to imagine you are responding to a newspaper column. How would you like it to sound to the readers? How should they perceive you? The point of doing this exercise is to prevent any reputation damage. So, be careful of the word you choose because an email is like a double-edged sword. You don’t want an email to haunt you for the rest of your days at the company.
If you feel compelled to reply then draft a response and save it. Come back to it after a couple of hours or the next day. Do you still want to send it as it is? Can a few edits make it better? Chances are that you will be rewriting it because you came back to it with a fresh mind. Oh, and by the way, turn off auto-correct function and re-read your email.
Finally, once you’ve sent the email, call them and propose a catching-up meeting. Tell them you want to find a solution that works for the both of you. Say so with conviction and a tone that matches your intention. The ultimate goal is not to let any misunderstanding foil your efforts to collaborate without straining your work relationship.