You are seeing red.
Someone just said or did something so unimaginably bad (or at least that is how it seems to you) and you are overtaken by anger.
“I am so going to send him an email and give him a piece of my mind…. he’ll see…”
You sit on your computer (or take out your phone) and start pouring your feelings into an angry email. Once done, you hit the send button and, with a feeling of a temporary accomplishment, you sit back and relax in your chair. You are starting to feel better. At least for the moment.
This person has wronged you, they deserve what’s coming to them, right?
In about 10 minutes after you’ve blasted out that email, your anger starts fading away and doubts start creeping in your mind. Did you go a tad too far? Did you say some things that you wish you didn’t? Was it all so bad or did you overreact a little bit?
You start to realize that maybe you should’ve calmed down a little before you sent that email. Unfortunately, it is too late. The email is sent. The relationship is ruined.
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 occasionally characters clash leading to some level of anger from one, or both, sides. It happens at home, at work, with friends or even with pets.
The next time this happens to you, before you do something irreversible that you’ll end up regretting later, follow this process instead:
How to avoid sending an angry email
Step #1 – write the email
Yes, write it all out.
Let it all out and don’t hold anything back. This will help you process all your negative emotions and greatly reduce your anger. If you try to suppress it and deal with in internally, it will take you a lot of effort and time to do so. Externalizing it will help you deal with it much faster.
Don’t enter the TO field.
Notice how I said to “write”, not to “send” the email. A very important distinction to remember. To make sure you don’t send it unintentionally or just by habit, do NOT enter the TO field at all. Just start composing a brand new email and enter only the body.
Step #2 – sleep on it
Now that you have it all out of your mind and into an email, step away and sleep on it. Give yourself some time to cool down and see if you feel differently about the situation and especially about your email. Chances are the next morning you will see things much more clearly and you’ll be able to reassess the situation better.
Step #3 – make a decision
After the cool down period, it is time to make a decision.
Do you still want to send that email?
No? Great. Print it out and delete it from your inbox. This way you are not tempted to send it in the future if a similar situation with the same person arises. The goal of the print-out is to have a memory of how you felt in the particular moment which can be helpful later and can be used to learn from the entire situation.
Yes? Do the following first:
- Do your homework – you might “think” you are absolutely right about how you saw the situation, but upon further investigation you might discover otherwise. Before you make any accusations, make sure you have the facts right.
- 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 you actions.
Still want to send it? Here is how to turn your email into a professional constructive criticism piece of communication instead of a personal stream of accusations:
- Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say in person – often times people feel shielded by the impersonal nature of email and the safety of not facing the other side face-to-face, so they write things they wouldn’t say otherwise. Imagine you are in the same room with the other person when you write your email. If don’t have the guts to say it to them live, don’t put it in your email as it does not belong there.
- Remove any tone of anger – try to sound as objective as possible. Stick to the facts.
- Remove all “I”, “you” and “us” – this will help your email to sound more professional and objective and less personal
- Keep it short – the longer the email, the more personal it will sound and the more the other person would want to criticize what you said and reply to each of your points
- Avoid sarcasm and threats – they are not going to help you or the other side reach a quicker resolution to the situation. Also, refrain from making remarks about the other person’s intelligence, ethics, personality, or physical appearance
- 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. Don’t say something that can ruin the entire relationship for good, even if you are right or the other side has “deserved” it.
After you write it, re-read your email a couple of times. Take a break of 15 minutes. Re-read it again and if still want to send it, press the “Send” button.
What to do if you have already sent an email fueled by anger
Acknowledge the mistake. If might hurt your ego a little bit to admit you’ve done something rash, but in the long term, you’ll feel much better. The worst thing you can do is to pretend like nothing happened, bury the feelings of guilt, and avoid the person who received your email.
Ask for forgiveness. Preferably in person or at least on the phone. Explain the situation and apologize for your anger. This will help alleviate the situation and it might even make the relationship between the two sides much stronger.
If you are using Gmail, install a Lab called “Undo Send”. It gives you a window of opportunity of a couple of seconds after you’ve hit the “Send” button to undo your action and return the email back to your outgoing folder. You have only a few seconds to retract your actions but sometimes that is all you need.
Over to you now
When overtaken by anger, it is always best to externalize your feelings by putting them all on (digital) paper. To avoid escalating the situation to new heights, don’t send what you wrote before you’ve had some time to cool down and reassess the situation. If you still think sending the email is the way to go, remove any tone of anger, make it objective and short and think long term about what this email can mean to the entire relationship before you send it.
What experience have you had with sending or receiving angry emails or messages? Share in the comment section below: