What to Say When Someone is Mad at You

In our society’s currently contentious and downright crude era, the necessity to say or write the words, “I’m sorry,” is increasingly frequent.

Sorry for the convoluted sentence structure. But you get my point. Not only that, I proved my point by apologizing!

Now that I have your attention, let me be clear.

Every once in awhile, something we say, do, or write requires the carefully crafted words called “an apology.” An apology is a fine art that is a necessity in smooth business transactions and good customer service. The technique of “smoothing ruffled feathers” is truly one of the best ways to achieve your goals with words to retain a client or a relationship.

It is so easy to offend. Often we are not informed that we have offended someone. When someone does complain, their concern needs to be dealt with right away.

These days, you need to have a strategy for when someone gets mad at you. I’ll tell me mine, and I would love to hear yours.

If I ever create a misunderstanding as a result of something I wrote in an email, it is my practice to be in a hurry to take the blame, within reason. I don’t want to make things worse by claiming more responsibility than necessary. However, I want to diffuse the situation before it devolves into a slow simmer or, worse, a rolling boil.

Simple misunderstandings in email exchanges can blow up and damage relationships. Put out kitchen fires quickly before they burn down the house. If someone emails back that they are disappointed or offended by something that you wrote, figure out the source of the miscommunication and take responsibility for it, if at all possible.

I try to respond quickly with a simple apology that depicts the misunderstanding in slightly vague terms. But it must still be an apology: “I hope you know that I would never mean to offend you, misunderstand you, or to take your concerns lightly.” Then, if I still am unclear about exactly what I did wrong or what happened that was offensive, I politely ask for clarification: “Thank you for your email. I am glad that you let me know about this situation. I would really like to get this cleared up as soon as possible. I am very sorry for any miscommunication. Perhaps there are some issues or situations that I was not aware of such as…. or, perhaps I should instead have written more specifically that…”

I am firmly convinced that, secretly, everyone’s favorite four words are “You’re right; I’m wrong.” Speaking of achieving goals with words, try these; they seem to have a magical affect on people’s attitude when they feel hostile.

As you make every effort to be courteous, bear in mind that others may not be as “enlightened” as you are. You have to be nice and understanding while others don’t. Also make sure you don’t misinterpret other people’s emails. Don’t read too much into them. Don’t suspect a disrespectful tone that isn’t really there. Sometimes people are in a hurry and unintentionally seem to be abrupt.

Value the power of words to heal and to harm, to connect and offend. Adopt a practical, courteous approach or strategy to respond to the inevitable discords of human interaction. You will see the power of a few well-chosen words come to your rescue. Please share with us what is your practice, if someone were to become upset with you.  


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