As a business owner, you encounter numerous challenges on a daily basis. However, one of the most distressing issues that can arise is receiving harassing or menacing texts and emails. In this blog post, we're going to delve into this unfortunate reality and offer practical steps to help you effectively handle these communications while prioritizing your personal safety.
Acknowledge the Unfortunate Reality
Harassment, even in the virtual realm, can be emotionally draining and cause distress to the person receiving it. Recognize that it's not your fault and that you have EVERY RIGHT to feel upset by this type of low-value communication. By acknowledging the situation, you can marshal the inner strength required to address it head-on, like the fearless warrior you are.
Stay Calm, Stay Professional
First and foremost, remain calm and level-headed, no matter how upsetting or hurtful the texts or emails may be. Responding emotionally or engaging in heated exchanges will only escalate the situation. Maintain your professional demeanor and don't let their negativity affect your conduct. Remember...YOU ARE THE PROFESSIONAL, and they are just trying to make you think otherwise. Do not let them make you doubt yourself.
Don't Respond With Emotion
Give yourself time to process the message , take some deep breaths, take a walk if you must, consider your options, and respond in a thoughtful, measured manner. Remember, calm and rational responses demonstrate your professionalism and undermine the harasser's efforts. READ THAT AGAIN.
It's crucial to maintain a record of all harassing communications. Take screenshots or print out the messages, emails, or any other evidence you receive. Include timestamps and any additional information that can help validate your claims later if necessary. Documentation not only provides an accurate account of events but also serves as tangible evidence if you decide to involve authorities in the future.
When faced with harassing texts or emails, it's important to first establish the identity of the sender. While they might not provide accurate information, asking for identification serves multiple purposes:
By requesting the sender to identify themselves, you establish a paper trail that may be useful in future actions. Having this information documented can help you build a case should the harassment continue or escalate.
Sometimes, individuals may resort to anonymous harassment, hoping to exploit the sense of power that anonymity provides. Even if the identification provided isn't accurate, it can help you gauge the credibility and motive behind the messages.
Identifying the person behind the messages can potentially reveal any connections or associations they might have with you. This information can be valuable when seeking support from friends, family, or even legal authorities, as it helps them understand the context and severity of the situation.
When requesting identification, it's important to maintain a calm and composed demeanor. Here's how you can approach this sensitive matter:
Use a polite tone:
Start your message by expressing your concerns and gently requesting the sender to identify themselves. Avoid confrontational language or accusatory statements as it may escalate the situation further.
Explain your reasons:
Assure the sender that you are interested in understanding their intentions rather than engaging in a confrontation. Emphasize your desire to resolve the matter peacefully.
Set clear boundaries:
Politely state that you do not wish to receive further harassing messages and that their compliance is anticipated. By clearly expressing your discomfort, you establish firm boundaries that help deter further harassment.
Maintain your safety:
While seeking identification from the sender, prioritize your safety above all else. If at any point you feel threatened or believe that engaging with the sender could worsen the situation, it is advisable to involve appropriate authorities and let them handle the matter further (more on this subject later).
Clarify Business Communication:
It's important to establish from the beginning that the sender has contacted a BUSINESS, not an individual. Emphasize the significance of this distinction by politely informing the sender about their mistake. Express gratitude for their interest or feedback, but assertively remind them that all future communication should be in a professional manner.
Following is a recent communication thread our business received and an example of how to calmly and professionally respond to inappropriate comments. While this is a fairly mild exchange, the sender is not keeping things professional and violates our company policy regarding harassment and menacing communications. You don't have to feel the need to be overly friendly with your responses. Sometimes it is best to let them know right away you are not going to entertain their efforts to make you feel uneasy, and demonstrate that you are able to maintain control over the situation. Even if you are blunt, remain calm. Again, remember that you are the professional, and can handle unruly people, whether or not they are in person, or hiding behind a fake internet identity. Pity them, and act like the professional they wish they were (happy people do not hate on others!). As you can see below, the sender started out pleasantly, as a way to try to hook the booking assistant into a conversation. Immediately, we requested they identify themselves but were elusive in their response, trying to be coy. Immediately, the booking assistant directed the conversation back to business. The sender decided to "call out" by name the person to whom they thought they were speaking. The booking assistant kept the conversation professional and business-driven by letting the sender know this was not a personal line. And as you can see, the focus was kept on business ONLY. Do not get drawn into any of the sender's manipulations. Keep reading because we are going to talk about how getting law enforcement involved is the way to go. YAY, I KNOW!!!
To facilitate clear communication and to help prevent these situations, consider implementing the following measures:
a) Official Business Email Signature:
Encourage the use of an official business email signature that includes your business name, designation, and contact information. This not only adds credibility but also reinforces the notion that communication is with the business entity, not a personal account. Automated responses can also be applied to text messages as well.
Dear [Sender's Name],
Thank you for reaching out to [Your Business Name]. While we appreciate your interest in our services, I wanted to clarify that you are contacting our business email address. Kindly direct any further inquiries or feedback to this account, ensuring a smooth correspondence between us.
[Your Business Name]
b) Automated Text (or email) Response:
Consider setting up an automated email response that provides a brief explanation that the message has reached a business. Additionally, assure the sender that their message will be reviewed and addressed within a reasonable timeframe.
Subject: Thank you for contacting [Your Business Name]
Dear [Sender's Name],
Thank you for reaching out to [Your Business Name]. Please be aware that this is an automated response to inform you that your message has been received. We appreciate your interest in our services and will review your message shortly. Our team strives to respond to all inquiries within [timeframe].
Thank you for your understanding.
[Your Business Name]
c) Responding to an Inappropriate Message:
"Dear [Sender's Name],
I hope this finds you well. However, I must address the content of your recent message, as it violates our policy of maintaining a respectful and professional environment. We kindly request that you refrain from using language or content that could be perceived as offensive.
We value and strive to ensure a positive experience for all our clients. If you have any concerns or complaints, please feel free to express them in a respectful manner, and we will be happy to assist you.
Thank you for your cooperation.
[Your Business Name]"
b) Setting Boundaries:
"Dear [Sender's Name],
Thank you for your interest in our business. We appreciate your feedback, but we would like to request that you maintain a professional tone and manner in your communication. We have a strict policy against personal attacks, harassment, or any behavior that could be deemed disrespectful.
Should you have any inquiries or need assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out in a respectful manner. We are here to provide the best service possible.
Thank you for your understanding.
[Your Business Name]"
Asking for Help From the Authorities
Visit Your Local Police Department:
When faced with harassing texts and emails, one of the first steps you should take is to visit your local police department. By reporting the harassment, you not only seek assistance but also establish an official record of the incidents. Remember, your safety and peace of mind matter.
Explain the Situation and Express Concerns:
When you arrive at the police station, it's crucial to explain the full extent of the situation and express your concerns for personal safety. Share any relevant details about the frequency, content, and effects of the messages. The more specific you are, the better equipped the authorities will be to assist you effectively.
Request to Maintain a File:
While reporting the harassment, make a request to the police to maintain a file of the communications you have received. This file will serve as evidence of the ongoing harassment, strengthening your case and potentially aiding in any future legal action. Maintaining such records ensures a clear documentation trail of the incidents.
Share Message Content and Sender Information:
To help the authorities investigate and take appropriate actions, it's essential to share the content of the messages as well as any available information about the sender. Preserve screenshots, emails, or any other evidence, ensuring that you provide this material to the police. This information is invaluable for their inquiry and may expedite the process.
When dealing with harassing messages, taking the initiative to request that the police make a few calls to the numbers involved can yield positive results. This additional step can show the offender that you are determined to tackle the issue head-on and that law enforcement is involved. While the police might not always be able to directly intervene in every situation, their involvement and direct communication with the harasser can send a powerful message. This intervention lets the harasser know that their actions are being taken seriously and may persuade them to discontinue their inappropriate behavior.
The Sense of Security:
Having the police involved in handling the harassment can provide a much-needed sense of security for business owners. Knowing that dedicated professionals are investigating the matter and taking steps to protect your interests can be comforting. Additionally, by having a documented record of your complaint on file, you establish credibility and improve the chances of resolving the issue satisfactorily. This added layer of security can help ease the stress and anxiety often associated with dealing with harassment, enabling you to focus on other essential aspects of your life and work.
Dealing with harassing texts and emails can be a distressing experience, but by approaching the situation with professionalism, emphasizing documentation, and ensuring personal safety, you can regain control over your digital space. Remember, your safety and well-being should always be your top priority. If the harassment persists or escalates, do not hesitate to involve law enforcement authorities who can take appropriate action. Stay strong, reach out for support, and know that you have the power to protect yourself.Note: This blog post is intended to provide general guidance learned from personal experience and should not be considered legal advice. If the harassment persists or escalates, it's recommended to consult with legal professionals who specialize in such matters.