At one point or another, you’ve probably opened an email only to find it was full of negative comments or even hate. The person on the other end was clearly angry or upset, and now you’re bearing the brunt of their frustration in the form of this ‘nastygram.’
It’s incredibly hard not to immediately respond with a message that’s just as riled up and angry. The same could be said for when someone wrongs you and you feel like going on the attack.
Whether you were unjustly the recipient of a ‘nastygram’ yourself and wanted to respond, or if you have something you need to get off your chest, here’s how to write a snappy reply back:
Take the High Road in Online Communications
What a disappointing answer! But it’s the best advice you can receive when it comes to writing a nasty email or blog. Just don’t.
The internet makes it all too easy for people to vent, rant, and get their negative emotions out of themselves — and on to other people.
There’s definitely a time and place to address conflicts or right wrongs. Through an email or article that you can’t take back, however, is rarely a good channel to use.
While you may feel free to say what you really feel and truly unleash all the thoughts you think that other person needs to hear from you, the presence of the screen between us and them creates a strange effect: we start saying things we’d never dare say to someone’s face.
How to Tell If You Should Step Away from the Keyboard
That’s a good first test to determine if it’s time to hit pause and just walk away (at least for a little while): if you’re about to type something you would never say in person, don’t do it.
Assume anything you put on the internet is there forever. Considering this, words you write when highly emotional, defensive, or upset may be ones you regret once you’ve had time to cool off and rethink the situation.
Before writing any kind of response to something that gets you worked up, put the email or post aside. Talk to other people about the incident. Or write out what you really want to say on a notepad or in a word document as a way to vent — then delete it and start over from a calmer, more reasonable state of mind.
If you still feel like you really need to give someone a piece of your mind, consider this: when have you ever been on the receiving end of a nasty email or blog post and thought, “man, this person has a point! I really am a jerk!”
Even if you made a mistake, having someone (digitally) yell at you for it probably wasn’t an effective way of dealing with the problem. That’s a two-way street: if you want to persuade someone, or request they address a mistake they made, or point out where they need to take responsibility for an action, being mean or aggressive will not get you the result you want.
Say What You Mean Without Getting Nasty
None of this means you have to sit back and let someone run over you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever share your opinion or what you think about a situation, either.
Here are a few ways of voicing your thoughts or addressing your concern in a constructive way:
- Look at what actually happened, not how you feel about the situation. Focus on facts rather than what you made a certain action mean. Keep your emotions out of it.
- If you can’t keep emotions out of it because you were hurt or disrespected, first think about what you hope to get out of sending a message about the incident. Do you want an apology or another action? Don’t leave it up to the other person to guess. Explain what happened without making accusations, and then request what you need to resolve the situation.
- Before you criticize, think of what suggestions you could make for improvements or changes. Instead of just naysaying someone’s effort or ideas, offer a constructive solution to the problem.
Again, it might be a good idea to talk through the situation with an objective third-party first. Or at least write out the ‘nastygram’ you want to send, so it’s out of your head, then delete it.
When you’re ready to write a calm, unemotional response, go for it. Then ask someone whose judgment you trust and who does not have a vested interest in the outcome of the situation to review the email and edit it for you.
Ask them to point out accusatory language, emotional verbiage, and just plain unproductive sentences. Work to remove that from your message, so your response is clear, level-headed, and useful — not nasty.