Don't Send That Email

Either pick up the phone, apply the 24 hour rule or do something differently.

When I learnt to drive I remember being told, “if you hesitate, stop” and this is true in the jam packed highway of corporate email. Millions of largely inconsequential written messages flood all of our inboxes every day but surprisingly few really linger in our minds. Yours could stand out for the right reasons, but here are some thoughts on how to avoid writing one that stands out for the wrong reasons. [1st of 5 paragraphs]

There are some obvious, basic failures of communication which deserve a sin tax (being South Africa’s budget speech today this is on our minds.) WRITING IN CAPS, starting each new sentence on a new line, omitting a salutation or closing greeting, or expressing emotions that should be kept for a private conversation. A previous failure of mine was using the subject field for one line messages – my team pointed this out to me and I’ve been subject-friendly ever since. [2/5]

Everyone has their blindspots, the desperate need to fire a quick emotional response is the biggest one for many overzealous, hasty emailers. Basic grammatical laziness is also common and another is simply rushing to get something done. While there is a time to burn your boats and move forward without looking back there is also a time for pausing to reflect and think things through (before clicking send). [3/5]

This is where the driving advice is useful; instinctive hesitation is your Outlook Pause button (Ctrl + Are you sure?) – don’t override it. Now that you have paused; read the email you just typed up as if you were your boss, apply the simple 24 hour rule or just (A) delete it entirely. Importantly, imagine the worst possible out-of-context mail trail it could end up in and either add the necessary context or repeat (A) above. [4/5]

During a 10 minute work session the other night I quickly typed up an email but something held me back. It wasn’t an emotional message, the grammar was fine, the context was there but I just sensed there was a better way. After thinking it through, I had a different message to a different group of people which resulted in a much better outcome. Hesitation isn’t always a bad thing – in the traffic it keeps you alive, in the workplace it can help you thrive. [5/5]

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