10 Email Tips for Dealing With Angry, Trollish, or Rude Emails

Joshua Lockhart 15-01-2013

dealing with rude emailsIt’s incredibly frustrating to check your email inbox only to find a completely hateful message. Why in the world do people act like this? Is there some sort of committee that issues out these kinds of rude emails?


Generally speaking, no reasonable person would ever do such a thing. However, this is the Internet: the virtual Wild West. Anything goes, and the law is in our own hands. Why Internet Monitoring Laws Will Make Criminals Harder to Catch [Opinion] While the ITU is busy behind closed doors trying to take away Internet freedoms on a global scale, the UK government brazenly announced plans to give wide-reaching Internet monitoring powers to various British agencies as... Read More

With that said, you should learn how to defend yourself while on the web. Let me tell you this though: being a jerk isn’t a way to do it. To my credit, I’ve gotten a few hateful and rude emails in my lifetime. In fact, I’ve sent a few as well! (That makes me an expert on this, right?)

Sleep On It

dealing with rude emails

One of the simplest pieces of advice I can could possibly give you is to simply wait before responding to that nasty email. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult things for people to do. Why? Impulse. You and the sender may be two very different people, but by acting on impulse, you are drinking from the same well. Instead, sleep on the email for a while. Think about why the person sent it, how you’ll respond, and what you can do to keep yourself from being at fault.

Oh, and I know you may typically have fake arguments in the shower in which you always end up thinking of things you could have said to that guy who kicked sand in your face at the beach. Well, with email, you actually can go back later to an argument and dish out your response. Do yourself a favor, though: don’t.


Accept Any Responsibility

dealing with mean people

Sometimes people are afraid to admit that they are wrong. Guess what? That includes you, too. Review the email, accept the fact that the sender was wrong for behaving in such away, and then look at your own actions. Occasionally, it’s good to do a self-check, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Other people could have told you the same exact thing in a much more civilized manner. Sadly, the world just has jerks.

If you discover that you’ve possibly done something offensive or careless, apologize, ask how you can fix it, and then move on. Granted, if the person continues to be rude, don’t waste your time. Some people like to complain just for the sake of complaining. (These people are also sometimes known as bloggers.)

Serve Up A Smile

dealing with mean people


Ever heard the whole phrase “kill them with kindness”? Yeah, I hate it. Most people who live by this statement actually end up being even more malicious, and they do so with a creepy sadistic grin only a serial killer’s mother could love. Instead, I say genuinely serve up a smile. Let’s face it: adding “please” and “thank you” to an email doesn’t make you look kind. Sometimes, you have to actually be friendly.

Being friendly can include offering to find a solution, praising the sender’s discovery of the issue, or even thanking him for the critique. It comes down to finding the good amidst the bad. You can’t just take this tip on surface level, though. Mentally adjust yourself to realize that everyone has a different way of handling things, and although wrong, this just might be the sender’s own method. By doing this, you might become even friendlier.

Be Curious

dealing with mean people

As I said, everyone has a reason for behaving the way that they do. Sometimes it helps to be curious as to find out why. After receiving a hateful email, you may want to simply ask the sender why exactly he feels this way. If he’s a reasonable person, he may very well realize how rude he has been. Even still, there are quite a few unreasonable people on the Internet.


This is a pretty good reflective response, because it puts the the ball back into the sender’s court. Now, he has to answer a question, and by doing so, it may break him down. Granted, it may backfire on you. He may become even more enraged and send an even filthier response right back.

Chuck It In The Trash

rude email etiquette

Sometimes these emails aren’t even worth the response. After sleeping on it, you may not even care. Like I said, people like to complain just to complain, and there’s nothing at all you can do about it. I would say use this as a last resort, for it’s always best to resolve conflict. Granted, some trolls 5 Most Effective Ways To Deal With Arrogant Internet Trolls The Internet is without doubt a great invention. Unfortunately, no one so far has been able to develop and anti-troll device that will help to make it a more civilized place. You might have come... Read More (like the ones who send messages about your dear mother and their knowledge of her private life) should automatically end up in the trash bin.

If the sender continues to harass you, it would be good to at least try and figure out a solution. Else, just block his email address. You can’t help that he doesn’t know how to properly act like a decent human being.


Open The Door, But Be Stern

rude email etiquette

One way to resolve an email conflict is by being open about helping the sender, but also being very clear that you will not tolerate such behavior. A short response should do the trick. Just tell him to put down the guns, and you’ll be willing to offer a well-thought response. Else, he can take a hike.

For people like myself (who feel as though we should help everyone in the world who asks) this can be very difficult. Yes, the person is saying you are wrong. Yes, there is an issue that may need to be handled. No, you do not have to be treated that way. You deserve better than that.

Consult A Trusted Friend

rude email etiquette

If perchance you feel as though any response you write will be just as bad as the sender’s, enlist a friend to help. This may be a little drastic, and you could be overreacting. However, I can think of a few situations where this might be a viable solution. Forward the sender’s email to your buddy, and forward a draft of your response as well. Collect his or her opinion on the sender’s message, and also ask them if your email response is civil 7 Netiquette Guidelines For Writing Emails & Forum Posts Netiquette is short for network or internet etiquette. It encompasses the special set of social conventions found in online interactions. While netiquette is very similar to good behavior or etiquette in offline encounters, there are... Read More .

In some cases, this may only happen at the breaking point where you’ve gone back and forth with the sender, and you’re finally about to crack. If this is the case, don’t just send over the worst of the sender’s emails. Forward every single message including your own. Your friend may find that you were just as hateful at one point and didn’t even know it.

Zero In On The Real Issue

10 Email Tips for Dealing With Angry, Trollish, or Rude Emails darts

A more streamlined way of handling a trollish email is by targeting the source of the problem. Read between the lines, and find out why the sender is mad. Once you’ve discovered the reason, handle it, and move on with your life. He can’t complain if you’ve fixed it for him, can he?

Another way of zeroing in on the real issue is by confronting the person, stating that you’d like to work together on solving the issue, and then actually doing it. By doing this, you might even come out as best friends for life! (Disclaimer: I can’t say that I made a best friend for life this way.)

Don’t Match Their Attitude

10 Email Tips for Dealing With Angry, Trollish, or Rude Emails point

Turning your anger right back on someone might seem to be a great idea at first, but it’s not. By also becoming hateful, you’ll become a participant in an argument you don’t want to be in. It’s okay to confront the sender about his attitude, but don’t try to turn things around. Be defensive rather than offensive.

Additionally, never, ever, ever use the word “you” in your response. Whether or not you realize it, “you” is an aggressive word in this context. Instead, be more open with your words, not pinning anything on anyone. Besides offering a calmer tone, it gives the sender one less thing to complain about.

Or… Unleash The Hounds

dealing with rude emails

If any of these tips for you don’t work, you can always just fire back a great nit-picky response that’s even worse than what was sent to you. This will typically lead to hours awaiting the next message, lack of pants, bloodshot eyes, and a scruffy face. (DYEL, bro?) You may want to stock up on caffeinated beverages and blood-pressure pills if this is the situation. No one wins when someone on the Internet is wrong, right?

What other ways do you dealing with rude emails? Have you ever responded the wrong way?

Image Credits: JoelkMaroon Surreal, Tom Newby Photography, conednm, DDohler, visualdensityanil bhatRichard_of_Englandwaferboardpideaux

Related topics: Email Tips, Online Etiquette.

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  1. Yorick Nicholls
    June 2, 2017 at 12:41 am

    Just got one from a Government official. Just made a professional yet polite enquiry about breach of copyright on one of my photos and all I got was an aggro, chest-puffed, rude, uninformed, and threatening answer. To which I simply replied "Thank you for your reply" and directed my attention elsewhere. Better yet, I now have the backup of the newspaper who commissioned the job and wishes to get in on the action. He used his network to take this higher up the chain, and shamed the unprofessional manner in which the matter was dealt.

    In some cases there's no point butting heads directly, it may likely turnout in you being right but in the end all you may get for it is a thorny road with potential harassment and unnecessary anxiety. All for one image.

  2. Flavian
    January 19, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Or just ignore it. Seriously, responding to trolls just feeds them. These 'suggestions' in of themselves seem like a wonderful troll.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Already covered ignoring them. How do my suggestions sound like trolling?

  3. Audrey Johnson
    January 18, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Really great and informative information. thanks.

  4. Keith Swartz
    January 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Nice info article. Really gives some GREAT advice. Thanks!

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks, Keith.

      By the way, I saw that you followed me on Twitter. You're from Corinth, Mississippi? My grandparents drove off in the middle of the night and eloped there. Fun fact.

  5. Stephanie Staker
    January 16, 2013 at 6:09 am

    Excellent advice and here is another thing: if you are "real-life" friends and/or family, don't say it in an email! People can't read your body language; can't hear your tone of voice or the look on your face. So, it is real easy to get misunderstood. Best way to deal with an issue is face to face but if that is not possible, call them on the phone. If you can't set a meetup with him/her, try to do your best to bring the conflict down a notch on the phone. We have forgotten how to converse and conversing is always best. So, don't send a text or email. Certainly don't put anything on a social website! Call if you can; set a date if possible. A LOT of misunderstanding and hurt feelings can go away if you work on it. There are some who are only internet friends and that makes it tricky. The above advice is really good in this regard.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Sound advice, Stephanie. Sometimes it can best to speak in person.

  6. Joshua Lockhart
    January 16, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Thanks, Scott. : )

  7. Anonymous
    January 15, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for the great tips!
    One of the tasks you should do is KEEP A RECORD of the rude or abusive email-- or social media posts. This may be particularly important if there are workplace relationships (customer-clerk; coworkers; worker-supervisor) and it continues over time.

    Another strategy is to provide people an out--they may have sent it without sleeping on it and now have "digital regret". In past, I've drafted responses like, "Hello, XX. Often, communicating this way can miss your tone or real intention--may not come out exactly as you intended and can be misinterpreted by others. I'm wondering if this might have happened here? As you know communications through email and other digital means leave permanent traces, and I'd just like to clarify what you were saying before I can really respond."

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 16, 2013 at 1:49 am

      Records have DEFINITELY helped me in the past. It's always good to present the full story to a mediator.

      Digital regret is definitely article-worthy, by the way... Hm.

  8. Anonymous
    January 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    My way to deal with it is to grin, and sometimes ignore it.
    When I mean grin, I guess I should say that I respond in a humorous, though not condescending way.
    Though most of the time, a troll is just a troll, and will not come back if you don't feed it, so ignoring it is not a bad thing either.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 16, 2013 at 1:50 am

      I support not being condescending. This is coming from someone who has been very condescending in the past. And often. And recently.

  9. Wasi Bilgrami
    January 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks so much for this article. I usually send 1000 mails to our customer and this article would definitely to improve my customer service and responses on time.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 16, 2013 at 1:50 am

      1000 emails?! What do you do, Wasi?

  10. James LaBarre
    January 15, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    >> Why in the world do people act like this?

    Because there are some people in the world that *need* yelling at?

  11. Karen Ang
    January 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Most of the time I ignore trolls but when I'm in a bad mood, I bait them even more until they give up

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 16, 2013 at 1:51 am

      You could be friends with Florin.

  12. Douglas Mutay
    January 15, 2013 at 8:06 am

    I really like your article. Having to deal with customer everyday it's not always easy and really i have found good tips in your article. Thank you so much!

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 16, 2013 at 1:51 am

      Glad I could help, Douglas. Thanks for reading my stuff, by the way. I appreciate your visits.

  13. Florin Ardelian
    January 15, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Sometimes you can pretend to take them seriously and ignore the trollish part of the messages. Be polite and helpful (but not too polite nor helpful), ask follow-up questions, make them *think* their next message, and they will get bored of it quickly. My favorite reply is "tl;dr" or variations ("Wow, you expect me to read all that? It must have taken you quite a lot to write it, but I'm sorry, I've got stuff to do.") which really pisses them off.

    • Joshua Lockhart
      January 15, 2013 at 2:09 am

      I'm definitely not perfect, but I hate bringing out more conflict. I'd have to stay away from "tl;dr", I believe.

      Being polite and helpful works, though. : ) Sometimes you just have to focus on the actual purpose of the email.

      • Florin Ardelian
        January 15, 2013 at 2:10 am


        • Joshua Lockhart
          January 15, 2013 at 2:30 am

          You planned that. Didn't you?