You’ve Received a Rude Email. How Do You Respond?

Have you ever seen an email preview notification on your phone that starts off so rudely, your heart begins to sink before you even open the full email?

I have. Unfortunately, we’ve all been there.

Rude emails are sharp, glaring, and LOUD. They’re an inappropriate way a colleague lets you know how they really feel about a situation. That, or they’re taking their stresses out on you.

Regardless of the message, those rude tones are unacceptable in a workplace setting. Your colleagues should collaborate with you respectfully. If someone does harbor rude and spiteful thoughts, they should at least recognize that they’re in a workplace setting, carefully filtering and softening those thoughts before sending words through a medium as permanent as a work email.

But not everyone is considerate enough to filter their thoughts at work (or to even be polite in the first place). And while I believe in standing up for yourself, I realize that certain situations make navigating a rude email response difficult, like when the rude email comes from a client or your boss.

That’s why I wrote this blog post. Rude emails aren’t fun. However, there’s a way to deal with them professionally and effectively.

What Is a Rude Email?

  • Let me walk you through a few examples of rude emails. A rude email might:
  • Insult your intelligence level
  • Question your dedication to your job
  • Use all-caps or excessive exclamation points in a yelling manner
  • Ask why you didn’t reply sooner
  • Make overly negative comments about your work deliverables
  • Confuse the job title you have for a different (often lower) one
  • Be unnecessarily sharp or angry in tone
  • Blame you for something without a clear reason

If you’ve received a rude email, it’s likely that it’s been from someone far above you in the hierarchy. But rude emails from your supervisees can also be frustrating, because you can feel like a strict parent when trying to think about the best way to course-correct them.

Rude emails from clients are the worst kind of rude emails, especially if those clients bring in a large amount of your revenue. Often, it’s more tempting to cater to these clients’ rude ways than it is to stand up to them, because you’re afraid of losing that revenue.

Work Email Causes Stress

Did you know that the average professional spends 4.1 hours a day responding to work messages?

Regardless of the amount of time you spend in your inbox, you probably find yourself getting stressed about your emails. It’s hard to say no, but when you say yes, you find yourself with more work than ever before. That’s why you have to make smarter choices about what and how you respond to emails (especially rude emails).

In fact, studies show that consistently checking your work email causes stress. You see, each email presents a new decision, which can cause added pressure to your day. But this stress is reduced when you group these potential decisions together and check your email inbox less often.

How to Respond to a Rude Email: 3 Steps

Regular emails are stressful, true, but rude emails are a whole extra level of stress.

When you get a rude email, it’s hard to know how to react. But don’t go with your first instinct. Breathe deep, slow down, and try these steps to put a rude sender firmly (yet politely) in their place.

1. Start With a Kind Greeting

Sometimes, those who send rude emails do it to get a reaction. They’re in the mood for a fight. They want you to get defensive and fight back.

Don’t give them that satisfaction. Begin your reply with a kind, warm greeting, perhaps even using an exclamation point or a smiley face. Your gentle tone will remind them that this is, indeed, a professional setting…we’re all adults here, and this is how we should act.

2. Provide a Solution

While you shouldn’t overextend yourself by solving other people’s problems without the proper compensation, sometimes rude emails can come from an “unsolvable” mindset on the part of the sender.

Take the rude sender out of that mindset by proposing a solution to their grievance. Seeing that there’s some hope in solving their frustrations may help the person get their act together.

3. Thank Them

This one might sound counterintuitive. After all, why thank someone after you’ve been on the other end of their rudeness? But a polite sign off might actually bring the rude email sender back down to Earth.

You don’t have to be a pushover about this, either. By being nice, yet firm, in your tone, you’ll ultimately garner more respect than you would if you responded in an equally rude way.

In Summation

Rude emails are a part of life, but putting up with them (or living in fear of them) doesn’t have to be. If you:

  • start with a kind greeting,
  • provide a solution, and
  • thank the sender,

you’re on your way to currying favor with the rude person and setting a good example—instead of sinking down to their level.

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