After reading that email, I think I spent 15 minutes just staring at the computer with a blank look on my face. Of course, I tried to find all the past emails from this parent to trace my responses; then I began worry about what my administration was going to say; and then I began to formulate equally nasty responses in my mind. At that moment I had to make a decision: respond immediately or wait and think out my response. So what did I do? Well, I responded, but not the same day. In fact, I gave myself some time to calm down and I wrote several drafts before deciding to send a very brief, concise email apologizing for my oversight.
Shortly after the receiving this email from the parent (who never responded back to my apology), I found a great article about responding to nasty emails written by attorney Bill Eddy. In his article, Mr. Eddy states that most email is just "venting" and has little meaning. However, in a real conflict, Mr. Eddy believes email can become increasingly hostile and involve more and more people. He makes some helpful suggestions about responding to hostile emails:
- You don't always have to respond to a email that states negative things about you. Mr. Eddy makes a point that you could address inaccurate statements with facts, but leave out your opinions.
- Since our brain cannot think rationally when we are upset, wait to respond. (I did this right...YAY!)
- If your goal is to get someone to do something, do not respond to what they did wrong in the email. Instead use this technique- B.I.F.F.
1. Be Brief-don't respond to criticism and keep your responses short to reduce continued
2. Be Informative-respond to a email in order to correct inaccurate information. Avoid
negative or personal comments about the other person. (I really wanted to blast this lady)!
3. Be Friendly-recognize the person's concern in a friendly manner. You do not have to be
over friendly, but be non-antagonistic.
4. Be Firm-being confident in your response, tell the person your position or information.
If you must respond again, make responses shorter and state the same information.
As I know that I will always continue to get nasty emails (sigh), I now have an effective strategy to respond to others. Now, if I can only get students and other professionals to use B.I.F.F. when responding to others on social media....hmmmmmm.
Want to read more from Bill Eddy? Go to his site: High Conflict Institute