How to Read Email for Sane Online Discussion

How to receive heated email and still keep your cool while you read it.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #273

Ask “Is This True?”

Sometimes buttons get pushed because someone writes something true. My client Johina (not her real name) said, “I feel like a fraud in the executive suite.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I know they’re all thinking I’m the youngest in the room, that I was just promoted because I worked with the CEO before, and that I don’t have industry experience.”

“Are you the youngest in the room?” I asked. “Yes.” “Were you promoted because of your relationship with the CEO?” “Yes.” “Do you have industry experience?” “No.” “Well then...”

Johina burst out laughing, realizing that the emotional response was silly. The defensiveness and upset was not due to unreasonable accusations, but to perfectly reasonable observations and truth.

One of the problems of being human is that when we recognize unpleasant truths about ourselves, we get defensive and project that defensiveness on other people. But really, we just need to own it.

When someone writes in an online political discussion – which never get emotional and heated - “You’re just supporting that policy because you’ll benefit from it,” don’t fly off the handle. Stop, take a deep breath, read it in a new voice tone, and ask yourself: Is this true? You might discover that, yes, you’ll benefit from it and yes, that’s why you support it.

When you feel like someone’s attacking you, hold your fire. Ask “Are they telling the truth?” If the answer is no, you can still say “I won’t benefit from it, I’m supporting this policy because I think it’s a super-good policy!” But if the answer is yes, it is true, you can calm down and say, “You’re right. I’ll benefit from it. And I still support the policy.”

The more you run your relationships online, the more you risk ruining them, unless you know how to write and read email without letting the emotion run amok. When you read something emotional, read it in several voice tones, so you defuse the emotional charge of reading it just once, in a bad tone. And always consider that what seems like an insult may simply be someone telling the truth. If so, own it. They’ll be happier, and so will you.

This is Stever Robbins. I coach highly successful people in stepping up to the next level in their life, career, and dreams. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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