THE BLOG
01/05/2015 10:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Write Mean Sh*t in a Really Nice Way

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You're having a fabulous work day. You're on your second cup of coffee. You're breezing through your to-do list. And you're feeling awesome!

That is until an email pops up from your boss. She's asking you to stay late for a 6 o'clock meeting to discuss a new project. You pause for 5 seconds. "What? I get off at 4:30 lady, and I've got shit to do tonight," you think. "I should tell her to do the damn project herself."

Yes, that's what you want to write. And nothing's stopping you from firing off that email, but ...

She could tell you to go find another job. And you'd have to tell your husband you lost your high-paying executive position because you don't know how to control your words. How well do you think that would go over?

Knowing how to find the right words when you don't like the situation you're in is a gift that will help you live the life you want ... without all the bullshit. When you learn the art of writing nice things, you can warm people up by being super sweet and understanding ... and still get what you want out of the situation.

Now, let's go back to the email from your boss. You've already typed and deleted four emails. Relax, friend and stop letting your emotions (you don't feel like staying for a 6 o'clock meeting) prevent you from responding in a manner that's cool, calm and collected.

So instead of telling your boss to leave you the hell alone, you can respond like this:

Thanks so much for thinking of me for the project. I really appreciate your trust in my ability to handle something so essential to the goals of the company. I am unable to stay tonight for the meeting, but am very interested in being on the team. Can I take you out for coffee on Monday to catch up on what was discussed?

You're telling your boss to go to the meeting without you in a nice way. You're letting her know that you appreciate her offer to help out with the project. And you have proposed alternative solutions rather than just saying "no."

Here's two other sticky business situations that you can write your way out of:

1. Jerk-off client who won't pay his invoice

You're a freelance graphics designer, and your client has gone MIA ... without paying you for your services. It's been nearly two months, and you're furious. You did all that magnificent work and this jerk has decided he doesn't want to pay you. You sit down to type up an email. You want to write, "Pay me the damn money you owe me." But that could make him mad, and you'd never get your money. Instead, you can write this:

I enjoyed our project together and thank you for choosing to work with me. When we wrapped up the project nearly two months ago, you agreed to pay $2,000 within 30 days, and I am writing to let you know that I have not yet received your final payment. I understand that you're very busy, and this may have simply slipped your mind.

As a courtesy, I will waive any further late fees and stop all additional collections activities if I receive your payment today. Again, I thank you for your business and hope to work with you again.

You're telling your client to pay the hell up in a nice way. You're letting him know that you need your money, but you understand that sometimes people forget about and miss payments. And you're giving him a solution -- no more fees or collections activities if you pay today.

2. Lazy business partner who doesn't do shit

You just started a small online business with a close friend. She's a smart cookie and has a brilliant vision for the company. You've been working your butt off for 30 days, and she's still visualizing (code for "not doing a damn thing"). You've tried to talk to her about her lack of action, but she always changes the subject over the phone. She lives in New York, you in California, so you decide to type up an email and tell her a thing or two. You want to write, "Get off your ass and do something." Instead, you can write this:

I'm so happy we decided to start our online venture together. Your vision is on point, and we're going to rock it once everything is in place. I've been working a lot of hours trying to get our website done; marketing strategy implemented, and write our mission statement and service descriptions. I'm exhausted.

I've attached a list of outstanding tasks. Can we talk later this week about divvying up some of the remaining stuff so we can get this thing moving forward sooner and attracting some clients?

You're telling her she hasn't done shit in a nice way. You're letting her know that you value the vision she's bringing to the table. And you're also pointing out the benefit to her of helping more with the actual implementation -- the business will launch sooner, and you'll attract clients.

The secret to saying really mean shit in a nice way is tucking the "no" or another response that the recipient doesn't want to hear in between two affirming statements. You first start off with a compliment or a statement of appreciation to warm up the recipient to your message. Then you move into the "no" and end your note with a solution that benefits the recipient (and you, of course).

And that's it! Your golden ticket to writing your way out of situations you don't want to be in.

Ever been in crazy-ass situations and got stuck trying to find the right words? Post your scenarios in the comments for advice on how to write mean shit in a loving way.