Did my client just text me a demand?
Why doesn’t this email from the other agent have a friendlier tone?
Couldn’t my broker have used more tactful phrasing during our conversation?


Before you spend too much time worrying about a communication that seems cold, consider whether the other person is simply blunt about communications.

Written communications often lack tone. People contacting you may hear their messages in their head with a friendly quality. But you, as the recipient, can’t hear that tone. If the other party gets right to the point and makes no effort to use friendly language or emoji, the written message comes off as abrupt.

Is it a pattern? The more you work with someone, the better you know that person’s communication style. If the other party is always direct and succinct, you need not worry over each abrupt encounter. You might even choose to alter your own style to match that person’s more direct approach.

How to handle a potential problem. Even when a terse message is out of character for someone, don’t assume that indicates a problem on your end. The other party may be pressed for time or upset about something unrelated to you. But you may want to check if something is amiss. One approach is to touch base by phone, video meeting, or in-person meeting. Tone of voice, body language, and eye contact provide more clues than words alone.

Even if only able to communicate by text or email, consider a few diplomatic questions to elicit more information. You can ask if everything is OK or whether there is anything you should know about what’s going on. Another approach is to ask whether there is information or assistance you can provide at this time. It might also help to let the other person know that you are open to feedback and input—all with the goal of helping achieve the objectives at hand. With a little careful attention, you’ll be able to separate problems out of your control from those you can influence, and you will head off small problems before they turn into major trouble.