There’s a rule of thumb for sending text messages or emails when you’re pissed off, and it goes something like this: Don’t send text messages or emails when you’re pissed off.
Instead of firing off a missive that clearly demonstrates just how aggrieved you are, take a deep breath and read on. There are plenty of ways to take a step back and determine how to approach a maddening situation so that it doesn’t sound like you’re screaming at someone from the other side of a monitor or mobile device.
The thing about email, which once revolutionised work communication but now seems almost obsolete, is that it’s an informal medium subject to formal workplace standards. Unlike a Slack message service, a missive sent via email must be properly formatted, include clear syntax, and be free of typos. That’s why you...Read more
Tone in writing is hard to gauge
Our means of digital communication are imperfect, which is to say that nuance is lost in texts and emails. It’s difficult to wade through the written word and grasp the subtleties you might be tying to convey. Tone is especially hard to gauge; if you’re only trying to impart a sense of disappointment, it could appear like full-blown outrage to the reader.
As communication skills trainer Almarie Meyer wrote for LinkedIn in 2017:
Research has shown that the tone of an email is always read as more negative than the sender intends. When you write a neutral email it is perceived as being negative. A suggestion for improvement can be read as criticism. And when you write a slightly critical remark, it is perceived as intensely critical.
Even if you’re trying to say something important and justified, the message will be drowned out by your anger.
Write your email or text, then take a walk
If you’re upset but have to send a message in a timely manner, write your note, but take a 10-minute walk before sending it. Work and life both require immediate responsiveness at times, so it’s understandable that you feel compelled to compose a message in haste, despite the burning ball of anger in your chest. If you can carve out a small window, take a therapeutic walk before sending your message. As you walk, take deep breaths. Think about why you’re angry, and how you can impart an even more effective message if you tried to exude a more empathetic vibe with your prose.
If a walk isn’t necessarily your speed, try something else, like stretching, or even drawing or dancing. Whatever it takes to let the anger boil down so you can let clarity grab the reigns.
Write an angry note, then sleep on it
Fully unload if you need to. Use this note to dispense with all the pent-up emotion and rage. But definitely do not send it. If you write an unfiltered, profanity-laden draft of an email or text but let it sit for 10 hours, you can come back to it in the morning after you’ve calmed down. With the anger dissipated, you can edit your draft into something far less unhinged.
Seek advice from a friend or colleague
People tend to trust their guts. When you’re in a fit of rage, this is a terrible decision. Many studies show how anger often poisons decision-making skills and better judgment. Instead of putting your faith in your instincts, talk to a close friend or trusted colleague (or even a therapist) who can walk you off the edge a little bit. Just like waiting until you’ve calmed down to send a missive is like consulting a different, less-angry you, getting a clear and unbiased second opinion will serve you well.
No matter what course of action you consult, the takeaway is the same: It’s a lot easier to live life with few regrets if you don’t give yourself a reason to immediately regret something.