In this age of instant and often anonymous online communication, it sometimes seems as if politeness has become a casualty—either because we have become so overwhelmed by multi-tasking that “please” and “thank you” have slipped from our online vocabulary or because many feel it is their right (if not their duty) to criticize others in the most blunt and insensitive ways possible. This lack of net-etiquette can become draining, especially to those of us who receive a large number of e-mails daily. It seems that the more you make your life public on the Internet, the greater the chance you’ll become a dartboard for rude, crude, and even threatening e-mails.
So, how do you handle the barrage and maintain your cool, your professionalism, and your sense of humor? Here are a few net-etiquette tips that might help.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “consider the source.” This can be quite valuable when assessing a rude e-mail. What is the sender really saying? Are they misinformed? Are they perhaps unaware of their tone? Are they trying to bait you into a senseless argument? Or is their goal to threaten or intimidate? Once you’ve made an educated guess about the sender’s motive, you can better determine how (or if) to respond.
Threats and Intimidation
It is important to realize that direct threats to your person, family, business, or property violate the Terms of Service of all ISPs. Immediately send the e-mail to abuse@ at their ISP. Remember to keep any threatening e-mails in case you need to refer to them later or are asked to provide additional copies in the future.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
Sometimes you will receive an e-mail that is so blatantly crude and lacking in substance that it is clearly intended to enrage rather to engage. Unless you feel in the mood for a pointless fight, you’ll likely choose not to respond at all. If you’re tempted to fire back an equally inflammatory response, first take a breath. Net-etiquette does not require you to encourage those simply seeking to bait you into a fight, or to insult you for sport. And you probably don’t have the time for pointless communication.
Handling the Misinformed
In some cases it will become immediately apparent that the sender of a rude or crude e-mail simply failed to get their facts straight before firing off their message. Net-etiquette in such cases is to take the high road. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Politely and professionally refer them to the correct information, and see if they’re willing to engage. You may be surprised to find they change their tone once all the facts are in view.
The Power of Words
Not all of us comprehend the impact our words can have. And unless one makes ample use of emoticons in their e-mail, a failed attempt at humor can be confused for sarcasm or rudeness. Net-etiquette in such cases is to err on the side of professionalism. Try to gauge the intent of the e-mail and to determine what the desired response might be. Is the sender trying to engage in a meaningful discussion? Are they being intentionally snarky? Are they seeking validation of their views? Sometimes people just want to be heard—and productive outcomes can result from a true exchange of ideas. So it is important to “listen” to your e-mails as well as read them.
Keep Your Cool
Probably the most valuable tool in the net-etiquette tool kit is your ability to keep your cool, and your sense of humor. Some battles are not worth fighting, so choose those engagements that seem potentially productive, and let the others go. And if you’re stressed or angry, take a break from your in-box.
Guest article written by: MyEmoticons is a provider of free smileys and emoticons for Facebook, Twitter and Gmail available via an online catalog or through a downloadable client.
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