Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm Offended!

I was just copied on a series of emails between two people. To say that the exchange didn't go well might be an understatement. The originator of the email series was trying her best to gently deliver some news that she expected would disappoint or even anger the primary recipient of the email. Of course, even though the sender made an effort to not offend the recipient, the recipient took immediate and dramatic offense. The recipient picked apart the email and accused the sender of having made particular statements based on positions the recipient knows the sender does not hold. The sender sent reply emails in which gracious, sincere apologies were made as well as statements that the accusations were not true, only to have the recipient make more unfounded accusations.

Unfortunately, this type of exchange happens far too often, both in the professional world and in our personal interactions. Because I was copied on the exchange I am taking it as a reminder to do the following:

- Remember it is difficult to convey and discern tone and emotion in emails

- Analyze what was conveyed and compare it to what you know the other person's usual intentions and positions to be; if the communication does not match up to your prior experiences with that person, perhaps you should ask for clarification

- Give the other person the benefit of the doubt, at least until you can clarify his or her position

- Consider whether disussing the matter in person, or even over the phone, might be the best way for each of you to explain your positions

Too often we find we have taken offense where none was intended. By then it may be difficult to rectify the damage we may have with our accusatory and indignant responses.

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