Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CAREER & CASH -

t’s quick and easy – and, to be hon­est, it lets you es­cape dreary small talk and avoid awk­ward real-life con­ver­sa­tions. So you can’t be blamed for want­ing to use it as your main form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But with the ef­fi­ciency of our beloved e-mail come some se­ri­ous draw­backs. We seem to have for­got­ten the fact that ev­ery­thing we send can be read over and over again, for­warded, printed out and ba­si­cally shown to any­one, at any time. E-mails are far from fleet­ing and if you say the wrong thing – es­pe­cially at the wrong time – it can haunt you for a while. These are the five times you should step away from the key­board.


Typ­ing an e-mail with your fists, in a fit of rage, is never a good idea. Anger in­creases the pro­duc­tion of stress hor­mones, which de­crease our abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate well. Re­mem­ber when we used to re­solve ar­gu­ments face to face? They ac­tu­ally got re­solved in a quick and calm man­ner (99% of the time). When you’re look­ing some­one in the eye, you’re less likely to throw as many ver­bal punches. En­ter the world of e-mail and we get dig­i­tal courage, writ­ing hurt­ful things we would not say out loud.

Re­sist the urge to vent your frus­tra­tion with a quick-fire e-mail – it’s far more dif­fi­cult to re­solve a con­flict once you have hit ‘send’. You can’t take back a heated rant (yes, it’ll be in cy­berspace for years), and chances are it’ll fi re up the re­cip­i­ent and es­ca­late the feud. Be­fore you know it, the ac­tual rea­son you’re fight­ing will get lost in the crossfi re, and a res­o­lu­tion will drift fur­ther and fur­ther away. If you can’t meet face to face, pick up the phone and call them to tell them why you’re feel­ing up­set. They’re much more likely to re­spond with em­pa­thy to your ac­tual voice.


Just as feud­ing via e-mail is a no-no, so is crit­i­cis­ing some­one. We get a false sense of bravado be­hind the screen and of­ten say things we’d never have the balls to say in per­son. Yes, it’s daunt­ing to tell some­one they’re do­ing some­thing wrong but there are tact­ful ways to do it, and e-mail just isn’t one of them.

For starters, your re­cip­i­ent can read what you wrote again and again, and con­tinue to feel hurt or even ashamed by it. They’ll pull ev­ery sen­tence apart and read things into ev­ery word and ex­cla­ma­tion mark. (We’ve all done it; it’s damn ex­haust­ing.) Chances are they’ll also read it in a very dif­fer­ent tone to the way it was meant, and could see it as a per­sonal at­tack.

Be­ing hon­est is an im­por­tant part of any re­la­tion­ship, so by all means speak the truth – to their face. Then you can en­sure the other per­son hears your cri­tique in the most pos­i­tive way. If you speak po­litely and keep your man­ner friendly, with­out ex­press­ing anger or hos­til­ity, they’re less likely to be­come de­fen­sive. It will also give them a chance to raise any other is­sues they may want to ad­dress with you. Be­cause no­body’s per­fect.

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