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.
1 ‘YOU’RE SUCH AN A-HOLE!’
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.
2 ‘YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG’
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.