Panicked onliners contact me quite regularity asking my advice and help about what they should do after sending an e-mail to the wrong person.
“Can I get the e-mail back?” Nope. Once you click Send the e-mail is officially and irretrievably on its way.
Comedy of Errors?
The last situation I was asked about involved typing about an individual in a not so kind way to a friend. The Sender inadvertently Cc:’d this individual on their diatribe (Poetic justice?). The friend then compounded the issue by hitting Reply to All. Oops.
There is nothing you can do when these type of things happen but to grovel and humbly apologize. If it involves someone you really care about you’ll then need to immediately call them on the phone and/or apologize in person.
Two Rules to Avoid Wrong Sends
This situation, which surprisingly happens often, can easily be avoided by following two simple rules:
- Do not add any addresses in the To field until after you have composed the message to your satisfaction. Ignore the Reply to All button all together; never use it.
- Do not be a gossip in your e-mail. If you can’t type something nice about someone whose address you do have in your address book; then don’t type anything at all. Talking (in this case typing) behind someone’s back is just as dishonorable online as it is off-line.
The onus is on you to decide how to handle the aftermath. You can regain some of the lost trust and lack of character your actions exhibited by being sincere and swift with your apology.
Do not offer excuses. There is no excuse for you not paying attention to details. Do the right thing by offering your apology and then make a point of never being too emotional or in too much of a hurry to not pay attention to what you are doing again!