Nevertheless, unless it is deliberate and intended, if at all there are such occasions, the words should be chosen with care. Letters can be stern, strongly worded or candid, but they should not hurt anyone. Letters should, and often must, bring out the deficiencies, omissions and commissions that are work related, but should not needlessly slight or denigrate the addressee. This aspect should be particularly borne in mind by the people in the administrative or controlling offices, people works in the secretariats and personnel departments and others drafting letters for top-level functionaries.
When signed by such functionaries, without much attention or with trust on the letter drafter, they may end up vitiating the cordial relationship built up over the years. Moreover, in such cases, even if subsequent regrets are expressed, the feeling of hurt lingers. Alternatively, having signed the letter, sometimes the ego factor comes into the picture, resulting in the need for standing by the letter. Either way, it is not in the interest of effective organizational communication.
Once the words are out, the damage is done. An important rule worth reiteration in the context of writing without hurting concerns anger. The golden rule to be invariably followed is ‘Never write when you are angry’. Anger is an emotional state that is not normal. It is often a passing phase. Anger brings out words that are generally harsh and hurtful.
Any letter written in anger is likely to kill goodwill. The damage is done. Before resorting to communication, verbally or in writing, let the anger subside.
Quite often, the same person who takes a certain stand when angry tends to take a more accommodative approach after the anger subsides. Whatever is written and conveyed when angry cannot be undone later. Even when anger and strong displeasure is to be conveyed, it is better to wait till the rage relents.
Writing without hurting also covers the fine art of saying ‘no’ without hurting the feeling of the recipient of the communication. Tact and courtesy need be used in adequate measure. Proper reasoning for declining the request or proposal will have to be provided so that the addressee is not left guessing. Facts and figures relevant to the decision on the subject may also be furnished gainfully. The ‘no’ need not be very blunt. The communication may be firm, but polite.
As far as possible, the unfavourable decision will have to be conveyed promptly. Any delay in communicating a decision adds to the anxiety and is best avoided. People in business know that decisions cannot always be favourable.
Even while conveying a negative decision, the letter writer should, whenever possible, suggest what the addressee could get a favourable decision.