It should go without saying that we must act respectably in all aspects of our professional lives, from the way we interact with colleagues to the way we portray ourselves on social media. Maintaining a respectable tone and presence will avoid damaging connections, offending anyone, and seeming unprofessional.
Tips for professional responses
Move the conversation to a different platform, when needed. If someone reaches out to you on social media, where your responses need to be kept short and sweet, ask to move the conversation to email instead. This will allow you to craft a more personalized, private, professional message.
Learn about who you’re talking to. Knowing about the background of whoever you’re talking to will help you frame where they’re coming from, their POV, and how to best approach them. Learning their motivations will also help you focus on the topics that are most important to them.
Verify and clarify. Make sure whomever you’re speaking to understands you, and if not, clarify to avoid any miscommunication.
Recap in writing. If you have a verbal discussion, always follow-up in an email and summarize what you discussed, action points moving forward, and ask if you missed anything. This will help get everything recorded for future reference, as well as align understanding of a situation.
Keep your tone respectful but authoritative. While you should always be respectful in your professional communications, you don’t always have to be apologetic. Understand how to stand your ground when necessary, and recognize when it’s time to politely contradict someone.
What to do if someone doesn’t respond professionally
Sometimes you end up in a conversation with someone who doesn’t act as professionally as s/he should. If this happens to you and find yourself on the receiving end of insults, assumptions, or general ill-will, here’s what you can try.
If this person is acting poorly due to a misunderstanding, clarify or correct them. For example, if you’re an account manager and a client gets angry because they’ve misunderstood scope, politely bring up the original agreement and clarify.
Explain the situation from your point of view. If you continue to address someone politely and respectably, it’s possible they may change their tone or back away from their anger. Giving them your POV also helps them to empathize.
If you have the option, cease contact. If someone continues to be angry and act poorly, it’s probably that maintaining a relationship isn’t worth the stress or headache. In the event you have the option to simply stop responding, do so. If they become aggressive or antagonistic after that, you can block them (if it’s online) or state that you would prefer to avoid getting into a fight, and then walk away (if it’s in person).
Most importantly, maintain your cool. Avoid swearing at them, getting angry, saying hurtful things, or making unnecessary/rude remarks. In the end, you’re protecting your image as well. How you react to someone who is acting poorly will reflect on you. Even if you share the story with others, try to keep the party involved anonymous to maintain professionalism.
What are your tips on maintaining professional communications?