I had to write a strongly worded email to a vendor of mine today. I’m blessed to say that this is something I’ve never had to do for myself until now, and I certainly don’t enjoy doing. But I have had to help several clients write difficult communications to people. Here are some tips I’ve given them in the process:
Fully understand the situation and articulate your knowledge of the situation clearly and as concisely as possible without leaving anything out.
Don’t lay unnecessary blame or point fingers unless it’s relevant to what occurred or the outcome of what you would like to see happen in the future. If it is, be sure that the person you are writing to is the person to whom that blame should be handed. If he or she is not, indicate this in your correspondence and ask that it be passed on to the appropriate party.
Use appropriate spelling and grammar. You would be amazed at how many people don’t proof read in fits of rage. It’s embarrassing.
Keep the emotion out of it as much as possible. You may be fired up and feel angry or slighted, but it’s business not a middle school birthday party.
Avoid using words or phrases that imply caveats or justifications. Words like “just,” “only,” or “at least,” weaken your position, and should really be removed from your vocabulary in most business correspondence entirely, not just when you’re ripping someone a new one.
Don’t rip someone a new one. Explain the situation. Make your point. Be firm. Ask for what you feel is appropriate remuneration or penance, and thank them for their time.
This should go without saying, but… NEVER use profanities or explicit language that you wouldn’t use in any other professional communication. No matter what has transpired you don’t want to: a) stoop to their level b) compromise your own values or standard of communication in a heated moment or c) leave a paper trail in which you acted like a fool. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Always consider the form of communication. If an email trail is appropriate, even necessary, then use that. If it’s not, pick up the phone. But write down what you want to say before doing so using the guidelines above and stick to the script.
And as you know, you can always call me if you need help!
Q for you: When was the last time you encountered a business situation that required difficult communication on your part and how did you handle it?