Me and my Big Mouth, er, I Mean Email

Ever say something you regretted.  If you haven't, you're probably mute.  If you're like me, after you make a verbal gaff by either saying something you shouldn't have, or failing to say something you wished you had, you mull those words (or lack, thereof) over in your mind time and time again.

I find it curious that I don't have the same reaction to the written word.

Perhaps it's because writing is already so much more contemplative.  In order to get a thought down on paper requires a certain amount of deliberate effort.  And if the writing is important, I usually go over it at least once.  Possibly, several times.

So I might not always get my spoken words right, but writing -- now that's a different story.

Or is it?

One place where people seem to write with the same reckless abandon with which they speak is in short messages -- emails, text messages, tweets, and the like.  This form of communication has a hybrid of written and verbal characteristics when it comes to forethought, preparation, and deliberation.

Which might be why so many people seem to make mistakes with them, first and foremost using them in emotion-laded exchanges.

Big problem when it comes to business communications.

Any electronic message has the fortunate (or sometimes unfortunate) characteristic of being permanent.  That means it can be easily copied to others, easily broken apart and taken out of context, and can become the subject of lengthy analysis and interpretation.  These things makes them absolutely unsuitable for use in emotional business battles.

Just ask any one of a number of celebrities who have had their "tweets" embarrassingly hit the news.

Any time you are putting any business communication into writing, make sure to take the time to think through how it might be viewed by others.  And how it might be used against you.

Leave out sarcasm.  Don't demonstrate that you're angry.  Certainly don't threaten, name-call, or berate.

I once had a peer who got into a huge battle with me over the price of goods being sold between our two business units.  After a short verbal exchange, I decided to take the next round onto email.  I was exceptionally careful, however, to write my email to be both concilliatory and factual, and I took great pains to make sure all elements of the argument in favor of my position were clear.  I must have read that email ten times, and tweaked it each time before finally sending it off.

I expected an emotional barrage in response, and wasn't disappointed.

My colleague's answer dripped with sarcasm, resorted to insults, and did nothing to state his counter-arguments.

A little later, that email exchange ended up in the hands of the corporate staffer who was asked to settle our dispute.  You can imagine how his childish outburst looked to our "judge."  Of course, the decision ended up going my way for the most part.

If he'd called me on the phone, or stopped me in the hall, and said all the same things, however, there would likely have been no consequences.  Even if I could have remembered all the sarcastic comments, I doubt I could have repeated them in a way that made the exchange seem like anything other than a spat between immature toddlers.  Without a record of the actual words used, the impact of them on outsiders would have been reduced to practically nothing.

Save your anger, your emotion, and your sarcasm, for verbal exchanges only -- and then deliver them when there are no witnesses or recordings.  And skip the name-calling completely.  In the long haul, it's better to put your foot in your mouth than it is to sign your own (career) death warrant via an embarrassing email. 12.2

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Novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZEDELIVERABLES and now HEIR APPARENT (published 3/2/2013)-- note, the ebook version of DELIVERABLES (a prequel to HEIR APPARENT) is on sale for a limited time at Amazon for $4.99.

These novels are all based on extensions of my experiences in the world of corporate management.