This article on how to respond to an angry text is really about how to de-escalate conflict. The first thing to understand is that no matter how personal the communication looks, it isn’t in fact about you at all. Then we’ll look at what you can do to prevent the conflict to escalate. But I’ll start with a short story first.
Receiving an angry text
The other day I received a text from someone I know which was a little unsettling. This person was giving me feedback on a piece of work I had done. The message didn’t start by the usual “Hey Em, how are you?”. It went straight to “I need this from you. You can’t do this and that. You need to start again”. I paraphrase but you got the idea.
There were no rude or unkind words in the message, but I felt attacked. I felt that somehow, I had done something wrong that really annoyed this person. And I don’t like to be the cause of annoyance of others. I don’t like to let people down.
So I started to beat myself up for not delivering something up to his standard. But I also felt angry too for the way he had spoken to me. You get it I started to overthink the whole thing, and frankly waste my own time.
But then I remembered a basic NLP (neuro linguistic programming) concept: the way people interact with you is not really about you.
It’s never about you
The way people interact with you isn’t personal at all. In fact, it’s really just about them.
It’s 75% about their personal history and beliefs, 20 % about the mood they were in before interacting with you and then the reminding 5% light be about something you have done.
The truth is that this person was probably already stressed out before he looked at my work. I am pretty sure he is overworking himself. Especially as he had told me he would look at this work on the Friday but only got in touch on Tuesday to tell me the work wasn’t quite right.
Now my compassionate bone kicked in and I knew what to do next.
Before you respond
My answer to everything as you know is to take a breath and meditate to gain some clarity and perspective on whatever is going on.
In a situation like this I like to do the metta meditation also known as a loving kindness meditation.
If you want to try it, here is a free guided metta meditation for you.
In this case the meditation also helped me forgive myself for not having delivered work that was up to his standard.
Preparing how to respond to an angry text
Once I am back to a calm place I can think rationally again and apply my excellent conflict management tools that have saved the day so many times when I was a corporate lawyer.
If you want to see the calming effect of the meditation on me, watch this video which I took straight away after the meditation.
In this case it didn’t matter who was right or wrong. He should have spoken to me in a more polite way but pointing this out when he was clearly unhappy was not the way to solve the problem.
So I messaged him and I apologised for the fact that the work was not up to his standards and I told him what I was going to do (and how long it would take) to fix it. I also asked for some clarity on part of the feedback that was really unclear and frankly unhelpful for me to improve the work!
And this did the trick! He appreciated that I had listened to his feedback and shared with him some other (totally unrelated to me) issues he was having (which were clearly the real reason for his stress mood).
A few days later I had another message from him telling me how much he appreciated working with me. So putting my ego to the side was clearly the way to get the best outcome of a situation that could have gone very wrong very quickly.
How to respond to an angry text – key take aways
- Remember it is never about you
- Take a breath and get some perspective
- Once you are calm, plan your response from a rational place
- Best trick ever to de-escalate a conflict: apologise (even if you think they are in the wrong)
- You reap what you sow – by responding with calm and logic you usually get a positive outcome and you might even have consolidated the relationship
Further resources on how to respond to an angry text
Try these simple hacks and let me know how you get on
Do you have other tips on how to respond to an angry text or any other type of angry communication? What works well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.
And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!