I recently found myself undecided in the following situation.

I have exchanged emails with a potential partner company. This company is bigger, more established, and a leader in their industry. We have specific technology, and during the email exchange I hinted that if they don't work with us, we will go ahead and work with somebody else anyway.

Now, this is a stupid comment at best, and I was tired and exhausted when I wrote this piece of garbage. Now looking back (after a good sleep) I regret it. I have two options: drop a note and indicate that was immature and apologize, or let this one slide and try to make up in the following conversations.

Like to hear your opinions. Cannot publish the e-mails but this is the excerpt of the most annoying comment. (This is not like me at all)

Don't know if this[referring to our plan to approach the market differently] would hurt your existing business but we will do this with or without you. But we much prefer to do it together, since you are probably one of the top 3 guys in the market

  • 3
    What is your specific question? I'm not sure how this meets the FAQ - workplace.stackexchange.com/faq#dontask
    – enderland
    Sep 5, 2012 at 15:52
  • 4
    I am not certain why you think you need to apologize for the comment. It does not sound rude to me. Sep 5, 2012 at 17:28
  • I think this is perfectly alright, you state your intentions, leaving it open to them to become part of the project or not.
    – Owe Jessen
    Sep 5, 2012 at 19:57
  • @user4749 - I actually agree with you that your comment was not professional. Although I also would point out, the statement itself, as much to be desired in the clarity of the statement. Telling them you are going to do it with or without them was silly. I suggest if you are serious about working with the company to aplogize for your comment. It might of course be to late, at this point, my gut reaction would not to even communicate with you.
    – Donald
    Sep 6, 2012 at 12:42
  • I've started waiting to send possibly controversial emails after I've written them. I often get a response in my head immediately, type it out, and now instead of hitting send, I try to wait a few hours or a day before sending it, and often after some time to reflect I'll see something that might offend the recipient, or just reword and tone it down after I've had time to reflect. Sometimes I send as-is, but at least I had the time to consider it.
    – gregmac
    Sep 7, 2012 at 18:01

3 Answers 3


I can see why you think this is more hardball than you intended it to be. But it's done. Going in with an apology now will weaken your negotiating position later.

I have made this kind of mistake many times and every time I've found that I have to wait for what seems like an eternity for a response and then it turns out that my unplanned aggressiveness has worked in my favour.

If you want the truth, I suspect the only thing here that they'll be offended by is "probably one of the top 3" -- either they are top 3, in which case they'll know it and they'll expect you to know it; or they're not, and they'll think you're being patronising.

But that's just my guess. Wait and SEE what they're offended by THEN apologise for that. Your saying that you were tired and irritable is going to carry exactly as much weight after they respond as it does now.

  • 1
    If the recipient has any tact at all, they won't show offense to this email - it really seems like quite a minor thing. Sep 5, 2012 at 16:32

I wouldn't say that your comment was aggressive so much as blatantly honest and decided. It was actually a good thing to say because it shows that you are clearly confident in your current direction and have no fear or regret about what they will decide to do either way.

This is a position of strength in any negotiation, even if your side NEEDS their side much more than they need you. You never want to remind the other side about how much you need them. You want them to think about what you can do for them and at the same time make it clear how much you want them because it gives you legitimacy and invites trust, also it boosts their ego a bit.

An aggressive stance would be one that tries to belittle the other side or invoke a response with negative reinforcement (Eg. you guys don't stand a chance without us, look at how dysfunctional your IT infrastructure is!). This almost never works if you are the smaller guy at the table, and if those roles are reversed it is basically bullying.

Apologizing is an enormous display of weakness in negotiations, much more so than possibly being percieved as cocky and arrogant which I wouldn't think your comment would come off as. It is the absolute last resort for damage control.

  • The underline comment is fine. The problem I have with the comment is that, it wasn't done in a professional way, there is a correct way to say "either put up or shut up" and this wasn't it.
    – Donald
    Sep 6, 2012 at 12:44

Your tone may have been a bit blunt but based on the excerpt given here, I don't think it was rude enough to warrant a full-blown apology. In fact, I know some people who will deliberately project this image of being very blunt and tough because they think it will work well for them (I don't know if this strategy actually works). I think your best bet might be to just let it slide, and try to be a little friendlier in the future.

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