I’ve had a few sort of patronizing emails lately. They weren’t all directed at me, but reading them did make me take a metaphorical step back and go “Really, why would you write that?”
None of the emails were meant to be mean. Nor were they written by people who don’t get along with the directed recipient of the email. In fact, I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t even realize how their emails would sound. But, if they had re-read their emails, it would have become pretty clear.
For example, one email was about a project that had been sent out to have people try it out. Apparently one recipient had been quite skeptical of the project from the start (although never said anything) and so the response was along the lines of “Wow. That was actually fun.” If you remove the word actually, there’s nothing wrong with the response. But, by adding that word, it conveys some extra feelings of “I didn’t think this was going to work and/or be fun.” In fact, if the writer could have tempered the response by admitting to the skepticism they felt “Wow. I was skeptical about this project but that was actually fun.”
Another example was about pointing out that some part of a procedure had changed. A later response, ignores and invalidates this by stating “unless things have changed, you still need to do x.” The original email quite clearly states that yes, things have changed, and b, you no longer do x. By writing the response this way, it sounds like the second person doesn’t believe the original sender and wants someone to double check them (which, knowing all the people involved, is unlikely).
Both of those two examples show how important it is to re-read not only your email before you hit send, but those that you are responding to. I’ve also been involved in multiple emails recently where people read the subject “do x tomorrow?” and didn’t look at the date the email was sent. Then, they assumed it was sent the day they read it (which was in fact the tomorrow in question) and everyone ends up confused.
Yes, part of the above is just the nature of email. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t attempt to not be part of the problem. So, before you hit sent today, take a moment and re-read what you just wrote, and the email you’re replying to.