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Did I Really Send That??

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anger. hostility towards the oppositionImage by assbach via FlickrDid you ever give in to the temptation to compose a really nasty email – and then send it?

Joanna Young posed a similar question in one of her 50 blog post ideas. Her question was, did I really write that? Well, writing is one thing, but for me there’s a big difference between writing and publishing.

Writing can be a cathartic experience. Once in a while I calm myself down over a prickly issue by writing a snarky little blog post or email. Somehow or other, articulating my frustration has a calming affect. Have you ever experienced that?

HOWEVER. On those rare occasions when I impulsively send that nasty email or publish that snarky post, I’ve regretted it almost immediately. In the first place, after the dust clears I usually forget why I was so upset in the first place. Second, adding fuel to a fire invariably makes matters worse.

Communicating for the purpose of argument is fine, but it shouldn’t be done in anger. From now on, I’m training my finger to go from Snarky Save to Snarky Delete.

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19 Responses to Did I Really Send That??

  1. Jamie, Thank you for sharing that. It’s good to know you’re not alone. :) Some people do have the ability to pull off a rant post, but I’m not one of them.

    Joanna, Email is a very limited medium, that’s for sure. Even when you bend over backward to write with respect, words and punctuation can be misinterpreted.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Did I Really Send That??

  2. Hey Brad,

    I’ve done it a few times in my years of using the Internet. Usually it has been on a forum, replying to a troll who was looking for a fight.

    These days, I’ve learnt to bite my tongue.

    I’ve wrote a couple blog posts as rants just to use the therapeutic benefits of writing, but I’ve never published them. I’ve just written them and deleted them a day later.

    Jamie Harrops last blog post..A Connection Forces Me to Subscribe to Your Blog

  3. Andrew, You make a good point there. Some companies do indeed go for the image of maverick (apologies to John McCain), rebel, etc. Those folks are definitely calculated in their anger or rawness. (That’s a great word – raw.) A common disconnect is when companies want to project a down to earth image but use extremely formal business language. You see that in social media every now and then.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Did I Really Send That??

  4. Hi Brad, that’s an important distinction between writing and publishing. Writing can be cathartic and can also help us to see more clearly what the nature of the problem is, and what we can then do about it.

    Email is hard because it’s so fast moving and there have been times in the past when I’ve sent off an e-mail without thinking it through, and seriously regretted it later. If I’m not sure about something now I would always save it and come back to it later, preferably overnight. Although given the quirks of technology it’s probably best deleted than saved, just in case something goes wrong and it goes off anyway!

    Thanks for joining into this experiment of mine. I knew you’d have some interesting things to add to the conversation.

    Joanna Youngs last blog post..5 Power Packed Posts to Keep You Thinking After Blog Action Day

  5. Brad,

    Every time you publish a blog post or comment, or for that matter a comment on another blog, you are representing yourself, your brand and your blog, and the material which you publish should reflect this.

    If you were blogging about Eminem (a rap artist known for his angry and often potentially offensive lyrics), then you probably want to catch that ‘agro’ type of feel and publish the ‘uncut’ version of your thoughts – foul language and all.

    However, in the majority of cases, publication of such raw material will not be well received by the target audience and will be damaging to your personal brand and/or reputation.

    The same applies the publication of any work related communication, which should reflect the image which your company is trying to project at all times.

    Andrews last blog post..Do SRI funds lack accountability?

  6. Karen, Did you save those resignation letters? It’d be interesting to hear how they sound to you now. Talking about cathartic … A colleague of mine once spent the better part of a year composing a poison pen letter to his Volvo dealer. I can’t remember if he ever sent it, but he sure enjoyed writing it. Every time he came up with a real zinger, he’d run it by me and he was the happiest guy in the office!

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Did I Really Send That??

  7. Hi Brad, oh yes I have written that email! I also sometimes write to release the pressure, attack the frustration but as you said, it’s best to write it and walk away. When I calm down and review with fresh eyes, I am able to delete it or rewrite a much nicer version. When I worked in Corporate, I composed many resignation letters which never got sent! :-)

    Karen Swims last blog post..A Design for a New Day

  8. Brad,
    it happened to me, too. Not so much being aggressive in my e-mail, but I tried to be ironic and was misunderstood completely. In face-to-face conversation you can smile saying harsh things, or you can make gestures. You can’t in e-mails. So I decided to use the telephone whenever I have to say something not so pleasant. Or I try to meet the person face-to-face (I admit that can be difficult to do).

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..The last Flowers of the Year

  9. Ulla, I know how you feel. Humor is all in the delivery. Some folks have a real knack for it, and they become stand up comics and such. Email is the worst for handling delicate issues, so I think you’re smart to use the phone.

    Michele, Thank you for stopping by Word Sell and commenting! Your comment and Ulla’s just made me think of another benefit of writing these unsent words … the practice helps you rehearse what you might have to say in a phone conversation or face to face. That’s bound to make the personal encounter as uplifting as possible.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Did I Really Send That??

  10. I have written blog posts and e-mails while I was angry. I’ve only sent a couple of the e-mails and don’t believe I’ve ever published any of the posts. The e-mails I sent weren’t really bad at all. I basically just stood up for myself (on a personal matter, nothing professional) but I still feel bad when I think about it. I try to be positive, inspiring, uplifting, encouraging… So, I want all my words to reflect that.

    Great post!


    Micheles last blog post..Pulling the Reins: On Myself?

  11. Alina Popescu

    Reading this post two days after being sent back a nasty email I wrote and sent almost 4 years ago is really, really funny! You are right, putting our thoughts on paper is one thing, making them known to a few or the world is a different story. I know I wouldn’t send a similar letter now, still, it was a great reminder of what pain and anger can lead to :)

    Alina Popescus last blog post..A Book a Week: Simon Kernick – Relentless

  12. Hi Alina, That’s a fascinating comment … you got a reply 4 years after you sent the email? I’d like to hear more about that! :)

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..How to Write a Business Letter

  13. Alina Popescu

    It wasn’t a reply, it was the same email, sent to me in a conversation about things past:)

    Alina Popescus last blog post..A Book a Week: Simon Kernick – Relentless

  14. Cath, That is too bad about you and your mother. Sometimes with family, no communication style works. Sigh. I hope you can patch things up.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..What Can the Stock Market Crash Teach Us about Marketing?

  15. Hi Brad – I have been guilty of doing that many times. With email – it is so easy just to hit send.

    My mother is not good at discussing issues she wants to avoid, which annoys me. So I wrote to her about those issues instead and she is still not speaking to me. It is probably my own fault. I printed out the letter – then I realised it might sound a bit harsh. So I edited it. But the printer was out of ink, so I just sent the original copy.

    As you say – sometimes writing without sending is often a better idea.

    Cath Lawsons last blog post..Does Anyone Really Make Money On The Internet?

  16. Brad,

    I’ve found, at times, when I’ve gotten onto my high horse about a topic in an e-mail, becoming very moralistic about it–even if I didn’t do it in anger–it’s had the same alienating effect as an angry e-mail would.

    One thing I think we need to remember about e-mail is that, emoticons notwithstanding, it’s very easy for the recipient to misunderstand the spirit in which we are writing, since it’s all too easy to misinterpret moods, motives, intentions, etc., when we don’t have the benefit of vocal tone, eye contact, and other forms of body language to put our remarks into context, as we do when speaking in person. Even when talking on the phone, we at least have the benefit of vocal inflection, pauses, and such to give us a clue. And it’s doubly difficult for people who don’t even know us to form an accurate impression of exactly where we’re coming from if we aren’t careful.

    I’ve learned the hard way just how gauche–and downright rude–it can seem to use a lot of italicized words in any type of moralistic message (or perhaps I should say diatribe), even though under normal circumstances italics serve as a perfectly acceptable way of emphasizing and adding color to our writing. In this type of message, each italicized word practically jumps off the page, creating a very “in your face” effect. On rereading one such e-mail that I’d written (and worse still, sent), I had to wince every time I came upon an italicized word–regretfully one of many such words which had been far too liberally sprinkled throughout!

    Since then, I always reread and reassess such e-mails, deciding whether or not I can tone them down and make them less offensive –or, ideally, totally inoffensive (which can sometimes be done by simply removing italics). If not, I seriously consider the repercussions of sending them and, more often than not, end up hitting “Delete.” (To really purge my conscience, I’ll even empty the Trash.)

    As you’ve said, after I’ve gotten it off my chest by writing the e-mail in the first place and then gotten rid of the evidence, I usually feel much better! :-) In some cases, I start over, writing a new message (with greater restraint). In others, I decide to skip the whole idea entirely and give the person a break!

    Thanks for this wonderful advice!

  17. Jeanne, You did a great job of describing how it feels to write a poison pen letter, that’s for sure. You know, even emoticons and italics don’t always clarify meaning. When I see a smiley face, sometimes I wonder whether or not the writer’s intent is sarcastic. Perhaps the best assumption to make when writing is that when in doubt, you will be misunderstood.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Thank You, Word Sell Commenters

  18. Brad,

    I believe you’re right about emoticons and italics. I think that, when we feel there’s a negative underlying message, we sometimes even ignore emoticons entirely, noticing only later that they were even there. On the other hand, as you’ve said, in many cases it’s just as easy (when we do notice the emoticons at all) to imagine that we detect a note of sarcasm in the message as a result of them.

    As far as italics go, there are times when they work and times when they don’t–and its our job as writers to know the difference and use them responsibly. I’d say that the best way to use italics is for accentuating innocuous, or at least non-emotional-trigger words that we would stress if we were to read the sentence aloud–particularly when they add to the clarity of our message.

    But, I believe we often ask for trouble when we italicize words that trigger strong emotions in our readers–unless they happen to be positive emotional-trigger words–though even then, if we’re not careful, we can come across as insincere.

    I tend to use italics fairly often in my writing, but I’d like to work on becoming a little more sensitive to their subtle–and not-so-subtle–nuances and always use them in ways that add positive rather than negative impact to my words.

    Italics and emoticons have their place. But, as writers, it’s our responsibility to get our intended message across through the means that are appropriate to the situation.


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