Kindness In The Face Of Irritation

Twice lately I’ve received angry emails for various reasons (I’m a point of contact for a few different things which means strangers sometimes email me) and have resisted the urge to respond with a, “OMG. Chill out! It’s not a big deal! Here is the information you need that will get your underwear untwisted! JEEZ.”

In both cases that was the general tone I used in the FIRST draft of the response, but not in the SECOND after I had some time to think.

Because – truth be told? I’ve been that person irritated behind the email. And I received a kinda and empathetic response instead of an irritated one and it made me feel 9 million times better.

(That’s a scientifically validated number. I did the math. It was actually 9 million times better.)

So, instead, I’ve offered kindness. Empathy, “Yes, I understand the frustration…” followed by important information, “these factors have played a part in causing you irritation…” and then a plea for forgiveness, “I hope this helps you understand the problem and that this does not jeopardize our relationship.”

And both times? It got an apologetic and appreciative response in return. Same as the one I gave the person on the other end of my irritated email.

Here’s the thing – sometimes we’re going to get irritated. And often, rightfully so. There are a lot of irritating things in the world. I’m currently irritated by the cost of a soccer season where both of my kids have played two games without uniforms and the season only has 7 games. WHERE DID MY MONEY GO IF NOT TO UNIFORMS?

See? Irritated!

And I may or may not have already emailed someone about it.

(I have not. But I have emailed someone about other issues that irritate me.)

We’re all going to be irritated sometimes. Some (me) more than others. And sometimes we (me) will send irritated emails to someone because we feel like what irritated us needs addressing. AND THIS IS OKAY. It’s often necessary that those voices get heard before policies change. HOWEVER, if I responded back with more irritation then that person will get even MORE frustrated and the ripple of suck will just spread across the universe.

Instead, I put myself in their shoes which I can easily do because I get irritated often, and wait. They threw in the pebble of ANGER and FRUSTRATION into the pond and I can just let the ripples wash over me until the water is calm again. And then I can respond with kindness and send those ripples back to the person in hopes to help fade their anger in the slightest.

I’ve done that twice recently, mainly because someone did the same for me.

It works both ways.

So! If you’re the kind of person who has a position where sometimes you get angry emails, stop before you fire off that response with a similar tone. (Man, the one I first typed out recently was SO SNARKY. I’m so glad I waited.)

We can’t stop and think when it’s an angry phone call, or any angry face-to-face encounter. But we CAN if it’s an angry email. We can pause and really think about our response.

And as someone who recently got a kind response to an angry email? I can tell you – it was the thing quickest to calm me. They didn’t promise change or correction, they just offered empathy and that helped immensely. So I returned the favor to the angry email I received and received an appreciative response in return. I like to think that person who responded kindly to my frustration is the reason I responded kindly to another person’s. So, his response not only helped ME, but helped the next person I talked to.

That’s how kindness works, I guess. It spreads – and I need to remember that more often than I do.

One Comment

  • Shari Crowe

    The best feature of any email program is “Save as Draft.” It keeps me from being snarky 99.9% of the time (also a scientific fact).