You may have seen the video of a high school boy wearing a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” cap while seeming to taunt a Native American elder at the Lincoln Memorial. It was as it turns out, a complicated situation. But one thing is clear: Anger fuelled the incident, and after it was over the anger continued to grow on line.

Of course, social media isn’t the only place where anger is quick to catch fire. If you’ve ever received an angry email you’ll know exactly what I mean. Your first instinct may be to start pounding away at the keyboard, determined to put that sender in her place.

My advice? Don’t. Avoid what I call the “send first, regret later” syndrome! Because in this age of instant communication you have to remember that an angry email may have negative consequences. Your reputation can easily be damaged – after all, email creates a digital “paper trail,” a written record that may come back to haunt you later.

So, in order to respond effectively to an angry email you should first, and foremost, not allow yourself to be overly emotional. The following dos and don’ts will help you achieve that goal.

The Dos and The Don’ts

Don’t: If you receive an angry email don’t immediately reply.

Do: Get up and walk away, or focus on something else. Reread the angry email later, when your initial “fight” response has cooled off.

Don’t: Even though the email may sound nasty, try not to take it personally. Remember, when people write angry emails it’s a reflection of the sender’s ability to manage emotions. You can’t control that, but you can control your own reaction.

Do: Take a second (or third, or fourth!) look at the email to see if there’s something of value being said, despite the angry tone. Choose to focus your response on a positive aspect of the message.

Don’t: When you write your reply, make sure not to use the same kind of angry language as in the original message. A professional tone may help lower the temperature of the discussion.

Do: It’s important to try to find some point of agreement. If you can find something that both parties agree upon that may be the start of productive communication.

There’s one important “do” I should mention. And that is, do remind yourself that there’s no law saying you have to respond to an email with another email. Consider having a good old-fashioned conversation instead. Speaking in person or by phone may help clear the air and move things forward more quickly. But if you must respond by email just make sure not to rush in with your finger on the send trigger – there is nothing to be gained from acquiring “send first, regret later” syndrome!”

Do you need help with managing the emotional tone of your emails? Contact the Language Lab for more information.

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