Think before you send.
IT’S that awkward moment . . . when you hit send and realise you sent the email to the wrong person. Or you sent the email to the right person and then realised it was a terrible idea.
Or you should have stepped away from the computer and cooled down. Or you should have said it in person, not online.
We have all had these moments and don’t they make you die a little inside?
We all know that sudden rush of blood to the face, that racing pulse, those sweaty palms, and the sudden churning of the stomach when we realise what we’ve written hastily and the potential repercussions of the act.
Yes, it’s a familiar and horrifying situation, but do we ever learn?
One high- profile friend of mine won’t put much in writing on Facebook, Twitter, email or SMS.
While disarmingly open in person, he’s all business via email and social media.
I had thought this strange and rigid, perhaps even paranoid at first, but after a few misfires via Twitter, Facebook and even email, I see the wisdom in his ways.
Nothing is ever really deleted once published. One little click of the ‘‘ send’’ button can seem flippant, but it is a long- term commitment. No email message, Facebook message or SMS text is ever really deleted permanently. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t write them sometimes; writing an emotive or angry email is therapy in itself.
Write it, edit it, let it all out . . . and then delete it. Don’t send it.
DON’T HIT SEND WHEN:
• You are having sensitive conversations via email. Sensitive and emotionally charged conversations have no place in an email. If you need to express disappointment, fire an employee or apologise, do it in person, face- to- face, or at least by phone.
• Using ‘‘ reply all’’. When you are included in a group email and you write a private reply, only to accidentally hit ‘‘ reply all’’ instead of ‘‘ reply’’, it’s not only embarrassing for you, but inconvenient for all of the other recipients to be included.
• You wouldn’t say it in public. When you write a scathing email, even if you only send it to one person, it is indelible. It’s public as soon as you send it; it could go anywhere, to anybody. It could be forwarded, screen- captured, printed out. So if you’re including something nasty about your colleague or employer, think again. Never assume an email will stop where it’s sent.
• You are fuming. Draft an email, response, or complaint by all means, but sleep on it. Let it mull overnight, talk it out with a trusted friend, and let your emotions settle, before you re- read it and evaluate the potential repercussions. Keep in mind that the best result might come from not emailing at all, but talking it out in person.
Psychologist and New York Times columnist Daniel Goleman’s novel Emotional Intelligence advises ‘‘ a key ability in impulse control is knowing the difference between feelings and actions and learning to make better emotional decisions by first controlling the impulse to act, then identifying alternative actions and their consequences before acting’’. You may be a fast typist but how quick can you think? The fact is we live in an age where documentation is permanent, even when deleted. It’s not paranoia to be more considerate in your written dealings, but a lesson in civility.