How to Express sympathy to Sri Lankan acquaintance?
April 21, 2019 11:02 AM   Subscribe

I have an email I need to send to a Sri Lankan business associate--what's appropriate to say after today's tragedy?

He and his family are living outside the country. Are condolescences appropriate for a non- personal event like this?
posted by Jon44 to Human Relations (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would just wait as long as possible and send it later, without mentioning it. Give it a week if you can. If he lost anyone, he doesn't care what you say; if he didn't it might come off as weird that you're bringing it up.

Remember that he doesn't think of himself as "your Sri Lankan business associate", he just thinks of you as a person he has to interact with for work, so you making him the Sri Lankan one in this interaction will probably feel weird and exoticizing unless you're pretty close friends.

If you are close friends I'd say "Holy shit I just heard about the bombings, that's so awful, when I've heard about tragedies in countries where I have people I've been really upset so I hope you're ok, lemme know if you need anything."

Either way, he probably doesn't want to deal with work stuff with as much attention as usual for a couple days at least, so give it a pause as it's more polite to him, and also in your best interest, to wait.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:13 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]

I disagree with the above. I'm American and was living and working in London on 9/11; business correspondents always opened by acknowledging the event. Something something simple like "I was so sorry to hear about Sunday's attacks in Sri Lanka. I hope your friends and family are well and coping with this shocking event" would not be out of place IMHO. I would not specifically offer condolences.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:34 AM on April 21 [66 favorites]

Agree with DarlingBri - it’s appropriate to send (brief and not overwrought) condolences when you work with someone whose community has been affected by a tragedy like this - even if they’re living elsewhere and don’t know anyone who was harmed, this kind of news is traumatic to hear. Anecdote: when there was a serious attack in Somalia in 2017, I was managing a government contract for a Somali community organization in the US city where I live. I sent their director and program manager a brief email that said something like “I thought of you when I heard today’s news about (terrible thing). I’m so sorry your community has experienced this tragedy, and (program) sends wishes for healing and safety to anyone you all know who is touched by this.” Both of them later thanked me for thinking of them and reaching out.
posted by centrifugal at 12:25 PM on April 21 [17 favorites]

Agree with DarlingBri and centrifugal - a brief, thoughtful message that doesn't make it all about you is a lovely thing to receive in the aftermath of a tragedy like this one. Especially since you're emailing him anyway, a sentence expressing sympathy and hope that everyone he knows is okay would be perfectly appropriate. Thank you for thinking of it!
posted by Tamanna at 10:50 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]

When the Paris, Brussels and London attacks happened I sent messages similar to the ones DarlingBri received to my business contacts that could be affected and they were well received. The Paris connection actually lived in Paris at the time and said it was interesting to see who in her network had reached out and who hadn’t.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:25 AM on April 22 [2 favorites]

I am Sri Lankan, living in California. I have family in Sri Lanka, fortunately none of whom were affected by the tragedies. My work colleagues have sent me messages of condolences, and they have all been so great to receive. Many of the messages have acknowledged the tragedy and that I have family in the country, followed by a brief expression of sorrow and a wish for healing and peace.
posted by Everydayville at 10:45 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]

[A few comments deleted. OP if you want to relate how your situation turned out that's great. AskMe's not a place for getting into back-and-forth with answerers if you didn't care for someone's answer. If it's a problem bring it to the mods, otherwise just take what's useful to you and leave the rest.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:44 PM on April 29

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