Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici

So…you’re mad. You got an inexcusable, dismissive, or disrespectful email that you are ready to smack right back across the digital fence. It’s easy, right? Too easy. And THAT perhaps may be one of the most temptingly dangerous fruits that instantaneous communication lays at our feet.

Because it’d be a whole different story if you had to get out a piece of looseleaf, write down your response long-hand (not to mention tear it up and start over when you got it wrong), reread it (which chances are you may not do with email), sealed it into an envelope, got up, put pants on, a coat, grabbed your keys, locked the door behind you, and walked a few blocks down the street to mail it.

There would be many chances to turn back in that old-fashioned scenario. But not now. Before you’ve even fully articulated or completed your thought, you can punt it right back out with a single keystroke, without so much as a reread. Without so much as pants, for that matter.

And this can spell trouble for our personal and professional relationships.

My advice: Stop. Before you hurl reciprocal vitriol into the ether, let the heat of the moment pass. Maybe you write your response, but do NOT put a sender’s email/name in the box yet (one faulty tread of a curious cat could prematurely deliver it). Save it in drafts, close it.

Then, later, when you have off-gassed some of that initial toxic fume to a friend or coworker, calmed down, perhaps eaten something, you can reconstruct, revise, or rethink altogether what exactly you have to say to this person.

The delay you build in will not make you softer or less sharp–in fact, it will make you wiser, and, just maybe, a little kinder.

So put down that match. Don’t burn those bridges just yet. It could be the best decision you make all day.

 

 

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