Before You Send That Angry Email, Read This

It happens to people. In working with a colleague, employee or perhaps a customer of business partners, something rubs us the wrong manner. Big time.

Back many years ago, we might manage the problem by walking down the hall and also have a quiet chat. Well, it could most likely be considered a loud conversation. But we wouldn’t throw way too many verbal punches because we were looking your partner right in the attention.

Email and instant messaging changed everything. Since those will be the most common types of office communication nowadays, we get a little bit of digital courage and write things we often wouldn’t say. Oh, and what’s written lasts forever, since people on the receiving end will keep it.

The glad tidings are that if you are using the written word correctly, you can speak your brain, but still avoid total office warfare. Next time you end up at your wit’s end and prepared to throw an electric barrage, examine these seven steps to getting the point across professionally and resolving the problem.

Write the e-mail while you’re thrilled but leave the “to” field blank. When you’re at your angriest, it’s better to use that energy to get out your true feelings. Don’t think. Just write. Write as though there are no repercussions. Speak your truth and obtain it all out. Say everything you’ve wished to say for some time, even the nastiest, most ugly things you will come up with. However, don’t address the e-mail. Leave that field blank or treat it to yourself.

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Let a while pass. Once you speak (or actually write) your brain, put the e-mail aside. Save it somewhere safe or email it to yourself (assuming nobody inside your organization is monitoring your emails on a continuing basis). This puts just a little distance between you as well as your frustration and enables you to come back to the e-mail later when you’re able to think rationally and make any adjustments before you hit the “send” button.

Edit with an eye toward risk-reward. Sending a contact or IM poses a substantial amount of risk, and that means you want to handle each of your points and decide if the chance of saying it really is worth the reward to getting it off your chest. Saying something merely to cause you to feel better may be your best option, but perhaps it will not resolve the problem and only cause problems for you personally over time. Remember, you do not want to destroy your job, which would cause you to feel worse compared to the argument itself. You wish to resolve this matter by setting it up off your chest and having the capacity to move on with your partner constructively. So edit knowing that, and become quick to delete any words or phrases you’ve defined as not worth sending.

Beware the unintended typo. One misspelled or missing word can transform everything. This step is really important, so placed on your editor’s glasses. Here’s a good example: You mean to state, “I understand you’re not trying to be adversarial, but…” But instead you say, “I understand you’re trying to be adversarial…” That missing “not” will screw up your day. Your partner now gets his back up because you’ve basically said that is all his fault. Be careful to learn and reread everything you write, and then…

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Get yourself a second opinion. Look for a confidant to learn what you’ve written and present you honest feedback. Make certain it really is someone you trust in all honesty with you because this exercise will be useless in the event that you ask someone who lets you know what you want to listen to. You want to understand how what you said should come off to some other person before you send it to the recipient. You will possibly not realize what sort of phrase will come off unintentionally as offensive or nasty. That won’t resolve anything and may make the problem worse. Take the feedback and repeat the risk-reward exercise, making any necessary edits or deletes.

Go on and hit “send.” When and only while you are comfortable with everything you wrote and so are prepared that there might still be repercussions, go on and send it.

Follow-up with a telephone call or visit. There is nothing beats in-person contact, so follow-up with a visit if logistically feasible. If not, at least make a telephone call in the event that you don’t hear anything back within an acceptable amount of time. You would like to make certain the other person will not harbor ill feelings toward you and that exchange resolved the problem so that you can both move on. You do not want to burn bridges or this whole process just wasted your time and effort. Look for some compromise between your two of you and that means you both can leave feeling like you’ve won therefore you’re able to interact later on.


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