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HELP! I Sent an Email to the Wrong Person!

Undoing Emails to the wrong address.

Panicked onliners contact me quite regularly, asking for advice and help about what they should do after emailing the wrong person.

“Can I get the email back?” Maybe. It depends on your software and setup, and even then, it may not be what you think.

How to Unsend an Email in Gmail and Outlook

  • Gmail offers a feature called “Gmail Undo Send,” which allows you to undo your send email action for up to 30 seconds. When Gmail is set to enable undo, Gmail delays sending the email to enable you to undo.
  • Microsoft Outlook does contain a “Recall” feature that allows you to recall email messages but only in certain instances such as:
  • You have sent the email to someone (one or multiple people) within your own organization.
  • Your organization is using Microsoft Exchange as your email server.
  • The recipient is using Microsoft Outlook (and Outlook is running) and logged on to the server.
  • The recipient hasn’t already read the message.
  • The message hasn’t been moved from the inbox.
  • If one or more of the criteria above are not met, your message will not be deleted from the receiver’s inbox. Instead, the receiver will see an additional email informing him or her that you would like to recall the email.

Comedy of Errors?

Otherwise, once you click send, the email is generally irretrievably on its way. The copy is entirely out of your control on someone else’s mail server.

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. Yikes!

There is nothing you can do when these types of things happen but to grovel and humbly apologize. But only if you are sincere and mean it.

If it involves someone you really care about, you’ll then need to call them on the phone and apologize in person immediately. Then, moving forward, follow these tips.

Tips to Avoid Sending Emails to the Wrong Address

This situation, which surprisingly happens often, can easily be avoided by following a few simple rules:

  • Do not add any addresses in the To field until after you have composed the message to your satisfaction.
  • Emotional emails should be left in draft until cooler heads can prevail.
  • Ignore the Reply to All button altogether; never use it.
  • Do not be a gossip in your email. 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 offline.

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 not to pay attention to what you are doing again!

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