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Don’t answer that email!

In the rush of the day, and as our email inbox fills up, it is so tempting to respond quickly to any emails requiring an answer.  And the same goes for text messages.

My advice is:  pause.

Email and text replies are permanent, and as with all electronic messages, your tone is up for interpretation.

How many times in haste have you responded to an email or text, and made a typo or auto-correct put the wrong word in there for you?  It has happened to me, one too many times.

Which is why I have developed the habit of pausing and s-l-o-w-l-y rereading my written messages before I hit send.

In my head, I asked myself:

  • Does my message make sense?  That’s why I re-read them all out loud, as you are forced to sound out every word or phrase when you are reading out loud. I caught many typos this way.
  • Do I really need to send a written response?  Or would it be better to call the person, so we can have a discussion and stop the email back and forth dialogue that happens sometimes. (I have a 3 time rule – after 3 replies back and forth to an email or text, I stop and pick up the phone and call the person).
  • Will the reader know my intention (my tone) when they receive my message?  This is a big one as it forces you to think.

The reason I suggest pausing is, in my many years as a company or volunteer leader I have either been the recipient of poorly worded messages or one of my texts or emails has been misinterpreted. It can cost you business or friendship, or both.

Years ago, in business, I had a colleague who felt our customer was wrong.  So instead of talking it through with me or our salesperson, she chose to send a lengthy, single-spaced, venting email to our client!  What happened to the maxim: The customer is always right?  I was horrified when I read it and had to strategically handle that situation both internally and externally. Hint: you cannot recall an email (even when Outlook says you have).

In my volunteer work, I’ve noticed that some of my friends are terse in their replies to each other, and tensions can get elevated rather quickly. In fact, I have watched dialogue via email negatively affect long-time friendships, when a simple, non-rushed phone call would have resolved things much more quickly and cooperatively.

So next time you are considering replying to a text or email from your mobile device, I suggest you wait until you are back at your desk/home office.  That will give you time to think through the message you really want to convey. And if you are “cleaning up your email inbox”, delete unneeded emails and then take a deep breath before composing a reply to those that need one.  When you are done writing, take a few extra seconds to reread your reply out loud.  I guarantee you will make edits or reword part of it.

And if you’re really daring, why not pick up the phone and have a conversation? You may be pleasantly surprised with the result.

Onward and upward,

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