Writing allows you to communicate in a thoughtful manner when other vehicles of communication like distance and time zones are not feasible. It is a reliable form of business communication that professionals use every single day. It provides documented evidence, avoiding a ‘he said, she said’ situation.
Although there are all these positives to written communication, there are some negatives. When writing, you can never take your words back. You can send emails that you wish you could just take back. You could send accidental emails, sometimes to the wrong person. It could be detrimental for your relationships and even your career.
While you cannot take some of your writing ‘back’, you do have plenty of time to get it right before sending. Here is a list of circumstances in which you should step back from your desk, delete that draft, and go on with your day.
1) When You Are Emotional
Especially when you are mad. This is when you will say something you will regret.
You need to enter and exit a cooling down period, and then you are ready to go to discuss the situation with the individual.
If you need to let it out, you should write it down on a piece of paper, so you are not one of those people that accidentally sends the message.
2) When You Have Bad News to Share
Put yourself in somebody else’s shoes. No one likes to receive bad news over email. Bad news is better delivered in person. People want your personal attention when delivering bad news. It is the more respectful route, and your coworkers and bosses will appreciate that you had the courage to communicate the bad news in person.
3) When the Email Exchange Will Take More Than Four Emails
We will not lie to you; emailing does get in the way. It takes up a major chunk of your workday. Writing emails does get in the way of progress.
If a topic takes more than four emails to discuss, call a meeting. It will take way longer to draft and send four emails than having a quick 15-30 minute meeting.
4) When You Are Trying to Resolve Conflict
Pick up the phone, call a meeting, or meet at the water-cooler. Conflict issues that arise in the workplace or generally anywhere will never be resolved over online communication.
Have you ever been involved in an email exchange in which the participants try harder and harder with each back and forth to state their case more strongly each time? It often only infuriates the other person, and digs a whole deeper and deeper for you both. Try another way.
5) When You Have Had a Couple Drinks at Lunch
This is a no-brainer.
6) When Your Email is Simply Too Long
If your email is going to take at least two minutes to read, do not send it. Instead, call a meeting to explain the contents of that email.
7) When Your Email Could Have Legal Repercussions
Don’t put it in email if you are, for example, unhappy with a human resources decision, work at a publicly traded company and are commenting on company performance, setting up a romantic rendezvous with a coworker if it is against company policy, or soliciting work outside of your company such as a side-gig. There’s lots more too but you get the idea. Yes, people do these all the time! But why press your luck?
Email can be an amazingly efficient medium for communication. The key is knowing whether to send that email or walk away, delete it, or call a meeting. This could save your (work) life. If we all sent one less email per day, the world would be a better place.
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