I can’t believe it. Someone just did something so unimaginably awful and now I’m sitting in front of my computer shooting laser-eyes at the email I’m composing, pouring everything I have into it. I press send and feel that euphoric high that comes with knowing I’ve had my say in the matter. I sit back and relax, feeling better.
As my anger fades and my nerves settle, euphoria seeps into doubt. Then reality takes a turn. Did I say something I shouldn’t have? Did I overreact? Why did I send that email?
Has this happened to you? This scenario is common to many of us. I’m ashamed to admit it’s happened to me more than once both sending and receiving such correspondence--growing thick skin is not the solution, nor is rolling with it. I’ve learned some valuable tips to circumvent hurt feelings when it comes to ruffled feathers. In any relationship you are eventually going to experience some level of anger. It might be a mild irritation, it might be pure rage and anything in between. It is natural. Different people see things differently. Mix in some human emotions and individuals clash—leading to some level of anger from one, or both, sides. It can happen at home or at work.
What can you do about it before it escalates to something you might regret later?
Go ahead and write the email. Start composing a new email and enter only the body. Doing so is a way to work through any negative feelings. To make sure you don’t send it, do not enter the “To” field.
After that, press your internal pause button. Save the email. Close the email and walk away. Give yourself some time to cool down and see if you feel differently about the situation. Let it settle overnight. Chances are the you will see things more clearly and be able to reassess the situation better.
After a chance to ponder it, decide if sending the email you’ve written is a good idea.
If you’ve changed your mind, print it out and delete it. The print-out is to have a memory of how you felt in the heat of the moment which can be helpful later and can be used to learn from the situation.
If you have not changed your mind, keep that “pause” button pressed and do the following:
- Do your homework – you might “think” you are absolutely right about how you saw the situation, but make sure you have the facts right. There could be something to the situation that you might not be aware of.
- Talk to someone – preferably, someone who knows both sides of the story. This will help give you a different perspective on the whole problem and might cause you to re-think your actions.
- After doing the above, reread the email.
- Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say in person – Imagine you are in the same room with the other person when you write your email. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t put it in your email.
- Stick to the facts. Be objective.
- Keep it short – the longer the email, the more personal it will sound.Avoid sarcasm.
- Send a personal message – don’t copy any third parties, send an individual email. If you have a problem with more than one person, send each one of them a separate email, even if you are saying the same thing.
- Think long term – it is more important to win the relationship, than win the argument.
After you’ve reviewed and revamped your email, reread it. If necessary, have someone else read it. If you still want to send it, press the “Send” button.
What to do if you have already sent an email fueled by anger – OWN IT. Acknowledge the mistake. Egos heal. Mine did and I can tell you I felt much better in the long run. The worst thing you can do is avoid the person who received your email or pretend like it didn’t happen.
Apologize and mean it. This will help alleviate the situation and it may even make the relationship between both sides much stronger.
In short, when overtaken by anger, it is always best to externalize your feelings by writing them down. Don’t send what you wrote before you’ve had some time to cool down and reassess the situation. Hit your internal pause button. If you still think sending the email is the way to go, remove any tone of anger, make it objective, short and think long term about what this email can mean to the relationship before you send it.
Anne McNeely, CDFA is an Associate and Project Administration Manager
for Fentress Architects in Denver, Colorado.She currently serves as the
SDA National Secretary for the 2019-2020 term.