You should never send an email when you’ve just written it

Check your email inbox now. How many emails have you got waiting for you?

Five? Ten? Fifty? A thousand? More?

“An iMac with “Do More” displayed on its screen on a wooden desk” by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

We’ve all got huge amounts of people chasing us for information, our opinion, or to do something for them, and the temptation is to crack through it as quickly as possible. “I’ve got five minutes, so I’ll just throw out a few email responses whilst I have the chance and I won’t have to do it later”

99 times out of 100 this is fine, but that stray 1 time might have a huge impact on you, or your business.

In your rush you:

  • Add in a recipient with the same first name as your intended recipient and your email goes to the wrong person, maybe even a competitor of the intended recipient
  • Reply all instead of reply and your thoughts get shared to everyone when you really wanted a side conversation with a colleague
  • Put down your initial thoughts to the problem being discussed, when you haven’t really answered the question being asked, making you look a little foolish
  • Answer quickly, and then realise you have something else to add, and then something else, and now you’ve sent 3 emails to the same group, making you look like you’re making it up as you go along

All of these have something in common. A bit more care, and a bit of a review, would have avoided the problem being caused.

Email is not an immediate form of communication and these days people do not expect an instant response to an email. If they want an instant response they’ll call you, or send you a SMS, or message you. But, unlike ten years ago, email is a slower form of communication, and this makes it OK to take your time in sending them.

That’s not to say that you can’t write a reply immediately, but by only drafting it and not sending it you’ve done the bulk of the work but then given yourself the breathing space to go back and check what you’ve done.

Mistyping in a SMS is forgiven as we all suffer the challenges of predictive text. Throwing three messages in a row into a message thread is OK in the world of WhatsApp, Slack and the like. But the world of email is less forgiving. It’s a more formal mechanism and requires treatment in a more formal way, so give yourself a chance and don’t send your email immediately after you’ve written it.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

And it’s not just being in a rush that leads to regret over email sending. After receiving an email that has got you angry the most important lesson is, walk away from the keyboard and do not reply immediately.

Venting is a positive thing for the individual, however, the impersonal nature of email means that a vent can very easily be taken out of context and escalate issues. Emails don’t handle context, nuance or tone very well, so the recipient has limited information to go on when it comes to understanding where you’re coming from.

And don’t forget, emails last forever!

Google have made efforts to help you here by having their ‘Undo Send’ option, where you can configure how long after you click ‘Send’ that you can un-send the email. The bad news is that the maximum is 30 seconds, so if you want a bigger breathing space becomes friends with your draft email folder.

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Rob was a professional soccer player, and cinema manager, before moving into software development for 20+years. He was a founding team member at startup Ormsby Street and is now a founding member at Don’t Keep it to Yourself. He writes regularly for Real Business and Business Advice on small business matters. You can find more information at robertdrury.me.

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Helping people kick start their product management career at gettingstartedinproduct.com * Product person at Watchfinder

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