Before you hit that Reply button and start typing a cryptic emotional response that you may later regret, take a breath. Stop, sit back and carefully reread the entire email that you are responding to.
Only then can you access that email’s intent in its entirety. Reacting in the moment by jumping to conclusions rarely works out well.
Read it Out Loud
Before responding to an upsetting email, take the time to read it out loud. When you take the time to read, and hear the full email — word for word — you may find that your perception changes.
A good rule of thumb is to wait until the next morning before considering even if you should respond. Avoid crafting, then sending, responses in the heat of the moment.
You want to gather your words and make sure you communicate your response in a way that makes sense. If you have to vent, create your response and save it as a draft to review (and edit) later. Believe me, you will edit it later.
If you react emotionally to one part of an email without looking at the message as a whole, you can many times take the sender’s meaning out of context. Always read the email in its entirety before hitting Reply.
The last thing you want to do is send off a reply that filled with accusations and the formatting to back up your emotional state at the time. Especially when, if you would have reread the email so you can access its face value, you could have saved yourself embarrassment.
It is common to incorrectly assume the other side’s meaning and intent when upset. When you find yourself in this situation, do yourself a favor and wait until cooler heads can prevail.
This approach will help you to make sure you are not reading anything into the email that isn’t there. I know, easier said than done. With that said, we don’t want to jump to conclusions about comments that were not specific or twist those around that were, right?
What they meant was…
I see this happen every day. “I thought that they meant…”. Due to the recipient reading between the lines.
In these cases, one party was reading more into the typed words than was actually there (or didn’t take the time to read the email in its entirety). This is where relationship dynamics plus assumptions can cause over-blown misunderstandings.
Or, worse yet, one chooses to imply intent regardless of the words typed by not taking what an email has within verbatim. Taking comments personally is a choice. A choice you make that may not match the sender’s intent.
Take Words at Face Value
Take the sender’s words at their face value (good or bad). Do your best to not assume anything that isn’t there. If you are unsure, ask before you react.
Making the effort to ask the sender for clarification avoids many a misunderstanding. You want to ask point blank, if what you perceive based on their wording, is what they really meant.
Even if they come back with a resounding “Yes”, that clarification lets you know you were correct. That’s called clarity. However, you’ll be glad you did before flying off the handle if it turns out you were jumping to conclusions.
Email does not replace all communications. Maybe consider picking up the phone before reacting? Especially when you can avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings by asking instead of assuming. I’m sure you’ll agree that is most certainly worth the little extra effort involved.