How To Turn A Nasty Email Into A Win

Let me tell you a story about a project that I worked on. It was quite challenging for several reasons. Challenging is good though, especially if it's technically challenging as I'm a technical person. But what happens when it's a social challenge?

I still don't understand why people need to be rude or disrespectful, but hey you're going to find these kind of people eventually no matter how nice you are. I did!

For simplicity sake, I'm going to call this person Bob. Bob has been quite abrasive and with a god complex, thinking that he knows more than everyone. To be fair, I have no idea if he was having a bad day or if that's the way Bob was. Anyways, nothing justifies it.

Now imagine how you would feel if you worked with a tool for several years and Bob sent you an email, CC'ing all the managers, pointing you to a getting started page of this tool. I don't know about you, but my blood boiled. So I started writing a quite nasty and aggressive, yet polite email as a reply, but before I pressed send, I stopped and breathed.

So instead of sending Bob the email, I sent it to my boss Adam Cogan and called him straight away so he could give me some feedback about what I wrote. And he did. He actually made me re-write the email from top to bottom.

Where I had things like

Just to clarify, we did NOT have any doubt about ...

Turned into

Thanks for being patient. I'm sure this has been frustrating to you ... To confirm, we did not have any doubt about ...

Going through the email was the first step he took to disarm me, but the ultimate goal that Adam wanted to get to was "Now you have to call Bob" as per rule Do you know when, and when NOT, to use email?. I REALLY did NOT want to call him, even though I knew that was the right thing to do, but I did.

I had the newly written email in front of me so I could use it as a guideline in case the conversation got heat up again which helped me holding myself together. Once I finished the call, I added an extra paragraph to the email, something like below, and pressed send.

As per our conversation, there was a misunderstanding about... it was great that we could clarify these points over the phone.

Shortly after, I got a response from Bob. And that was a WIN.

Thanks, Thiago.

Being a consultant is not easy and sometimes you're going to get into situations like that. Being angry really doesn't help. I'm pretty glad though that I have a mentor like Adam Cogan. This could easily turn into a very nasty LOSS instead if I hadn't called him.

Have you had situations like that? I'd love to hear.

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Thiago Passos

Thiago Passos

I'm Thiago Passos, a Solution Architect working for SSW sharing what I've been working with and learning. Love technology, dancing and I get unfriendly when I'm hungry.

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