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  • Bob Burg

“[Burg] has demonstrated that adding value to people's lives is the way to climb the ladder of financial success.”

~ Fran Tarkenton, Hall of Fame Quarterback and Founder/CEO GoSmallBiz.com

Don’t Hit Send. At Least Not Yet!

July 25th, 2012 by Bob Burg

send buttonI was reading a Facebook post from a friend of mine. He’s a very well-respected professional with a kind and calm manner about him. It was interesting to see him admit to having, what he described as, “a very unproductive, unprofessional tantrum in the form of an email that grew {very long}.” Fortunately, before sending, he had the wherewithal to run it past a friend of his who suggested he delete it rather than send it.

This brings up several different options we have when we are so angry we just want to explode at someone via an email:

#1 Take the Abe Lincoln approach: When the 16th U.S. President was angry at someone, he would write a scathing letter, seething with every negative invective that came to mind. He would then sign it, seal it, stamp it and…tear it up into so many tiny pieces there was no chance of it ever being seen by the culprit who elicited those feelings. That was a technique the president used to flush his anger. He never intended to actually send it.

#2 Wait before sending: I can’t tell you how many times just waiting 24 hours before sending an email has saved me from hurting another person, causing huge (and, perhaps irreparable) damage to a business or personal relationship, and embarrassment to myself.

The above for two reasons: First, even if something needed to be communicated, it could possibly be done much kinder and tactfully by making some changes. And, those changes are more apt to happen after the clarity that 24 hours often brings. Secondly, after that wait, the correct action might reveal itself to be not to send an email at all.

#3 Enlist help: Writing effective emails is something I consider a strength of mine. Still — before sending an email in the midst of upset or “ticked-off-itness” :-) — I will often run the email past a trusted friend or advisor and ask for critique and help.

And, those I ask know me well enough to know if this letter is “rational me” or an “angry/upset me.” They will often suggest substituting certain words or adding helpful phrases — the same ones I would suggest to someone else if I were taking an objective look rather than being in an emotional, angry state.

In these posts, I’ve often shared one of my favorite sayings from the Sages in the form of a question and answer: “Who is mighty? One who can control their own emotions.”

I’m reminded of a phrase from Daniel Goleman’s classic, Emotional Intelligence:

“A key ability in impulse control is knowing the difference between feelings and actions, and learning to make better emotional decisions by first controlling the impulse to act, then identifying alternative actions and their consequences before acting.”

Brilliant!

So, as a suggestion, write the email. But, don’t hit send… At least not yet! Not until you are first in control of your own emotions, understand the consequences of your actions, and utilize one of the above options.

What do you think? Have you ever fallen victim to the “too-quick send?” Or, been the target of one? Can you suggest another option that I might have missed?

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41 Responses to “Don’t Hit Send. At Least Not Yet!”
  1. Rich Anderson said at 12:40 pm on

    Great point Bob!

  2. Bob Burg said at 12:49 pm on

    Thank you Rich. I appreciate that!

  3. Ross Boardman said at 1:02 pm on

    Bob, been too guilty too many times. An old mate of mine told me over ten years ago that he read his emails in the morning and replied in the afternoon

  4. Shawn McCarthy said at 1:24 pm on

    Tremendous post Bob! As with most of your advice, you are right on target! I’ve received many emails like the ones you described. Remember email is a poor way to communicate emotion- email is best for quick, bullet points or general info only.

    Shawn MCarthy

  5. Bob Burg said at 1:32 pm on

    Ross: Excellent idea to live (and conduct email) by! Thank you for sharing that!

  6. Bob Burg said at 1:34 pm on

    Shawn: I’m sorry you’ve received those kinds. I certainly have, as well. Yes, generally speaking, for something very important, email is not the best mode of communication. When it does need to take that role, however, one really needs to be sure they check, double check, etc. to make sure that the message they are looking to communicate is the same one that will be received. Thank you for sharing with us!

  7. Amy said at 1:46 pm on

    This was just what I needed to hear (read) today, Bob… THANK YOU. I would add that this would apply to social media, as well. :)

  8. Lyse McDonough said at 1:57 pm on

    Great insights Bob. Also, when commenting on a Facebook post. I would suggest reading it out loud to yourself, before hitting ENTER. Hearing your words makes them come alive and gives them more meaning.

  9. Bob Burg said at 1:57 pm on

    Amy: Thank you. Indeed, it does also apply to Social Media, posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc. whether initial posts or responses to someone else’s post. (Or, someone else’s response to someone else’s post) :-)

  10. Bob Burg said at 2:00 pm on

    Lyse: An Excellent idea, as well! I certainly agree. Thank you for sharing that with us!

  11. David Matthies said at 3:00 pm on

    In the early days of email, I made this mistake more times than I care to admit. Unfortunately, everyone was still on their own in the those days without Facebook, Blogs and people like you Bob to help us along. This is wise advice that will serve us (me) well in the future. Thanks Bob!

  12. Bob Burg said at 3:09 pm on

    David: Thank you, my friend. Very kind of you to say!

  13. Alice Chan said at 3:22 pm on

    Great post, Bob! I completely agree with your recommendation of waiting before hitting send. As an introvert–and I’ve heard similar comments from other introverts–it’s very helpful for me to write out my reactions as a way to process what I’m actually feeling. Just like Lincoln, the process of doing so is in and of itself cathartic, which sometimes renders the act of actually “letting the offender have it” unnecessary. Also, while I’d agree with the above comment that email is not the best venue for emotional communication, I’d suggest that the introverted minority appreciates having the time and space to be able lay out the points for discussion for the sake of resolving the misunderstanding. It won’t be in lieu of a richer, more interactive discussion but complementary to that. Anyway, thank you for initiating this important dialogue about managing emotional communication over electronic media.

  14. Bob Burg said at 3:29 pm on

    Dr. Alice: Thank you. You make great points all around. And, email certainly is advantageous in terms of being able to identify and codify your thoughts, for yourself if for no one else. Then, you always have the option of handling the situation from there in whatever way you feel to be most appropriate. And, yes, all media of communication – when used effectively – are complementary to/with others as opposed to an either/or. Thank you for sharing with us and for your very kind words!

  15. Eli Israel said at 4:49 pm on

    After working in an email compliance company, I learned a simple rule: try not to send anything you wouldn’t want read back in court or read aloud to your mother.

  16. Bob Burg said at 4:52 pm on

    Eli: What a GREAT Principle to go by!

  17. Heidi Hardy said at 6:00 pm on

    Bob,
    I love this advice. Especially the definition of Emotional Intelligence. Striving to improve my EI has been a goal for me for years. No one is perfect but being self-aware can go a long way in the professional world.

  18. Bob Burg said at 6:07 pm on

    Heidi: Thank you for your kind words. And, yes, I agree with Daniel, as well. His book is one of my all-time favorites!

  19. Mazen Alzogbi said at 6:53 pm on

    Bob, I learned from a mistake that happened long time ago to hit reply, BUT delete the recipient’s email before writing the reply. I once sent an ‘angry’ email (using email program shortcuts) that I wasn’t intending to send. I just wanted to vent out!

    I learned my lesson.

    I also appreciate Eli’s suggestion.

    Thanks, Bobs!

  20. Bob Burg said at 6:58 pm on

    Mazen: Thank you. I agree. A GREAT idea is to erase the person’s email until you’re certain you want to send it. Or, if you’re composing the email from scratch, leave their address off until the very end so there are no “mistaken sends.” :-) And, yes, I agree with Eli’s suggestion, as well, absolutely!

  21. Van Brown said at 3:59 am on

    Hey Bob, I liked the way Eli put it: “read aloud to your mother” sounds a lot more brutal than just having it read in court. I’ve often used methods similar to Lincoln’s just to vent some steam. Afterwards I might even get a chuckle out of it if I was really angry when i wrote it. Anger often brings out the silliest thinking, as long as those thoughts are not converted into actions.

    The assessment of the value of an action comes from the results of the action. The result from sending a reactionary email seldom benefits all concerned, so a decision to send it is often not an intelligent decision. If the intent is to boost the ego of the sender at the expense of the receiver, then it is a “bandit” decision. If the result of sending the email makes things worse for both the sender and the receiver, then sending it is a stupid decision.

    Reactionary decisions often seem intelligent to the decision-maker at the time, but history tends to not validate those opinions. The term: “fight fire with fire” is not something you should ever take seriously in a kitchen. If you must take a go at somebody, challenge them to mud wrestling, or a game of marbles. If they don’t laugh, then and only then should you send ‘em a nasty email!

  22. Bob Burg said at 7:11 am on

    Van: Thank you for sharing that superb wisdom with us. Knowing that you are a student of Mark Twain as well as a performer in his image (literally – check out Van’s website at http://marktwainreturns.com/), that advice is right on the … well, Mark! Really, very valuable. Thank you for sharing that!

  23. Kumar Gauraw said at 8:15 am on

    I have fallen victim to the “too-quick send?” a number of times. In fact more than I can count. However, one instance I vividly remember when I took the route you suggested in STEP 2 and it saved me a lot of heartache.

    In fact, a senior colleague knew what I would do next (He knew my nature :-) obviously) after reading the email from my manager on which he was copied as well. He called me specifically to ask me to wait for 4 hours before sending my reply which I did. In fact, I am glad I did and even today, I feel so good about it.

    Thank you for this awesome post. This post has some incredible suggestions on anger management and damage control:-)

    Regards,
    Kumar

  24. Steve Boyett said at 8:48 am on

    Bob,

    This is both a great post, and the timing (for me today, somehow missed it yesterday…but worked out) is perfect. I had literally just finished reading the most poorly timed vile email I have ever been exposed to (it was forwarded to me) and the recipient was asking for advice on what to do in response.

    I have been guilty once of a “quick send” and fortunately have had a chance to make that relationship right again – but that doesn’t always happen. I was tempted just a few minutes ago to rebuke this person for what they sent to a family member, but will instead wait and seek advice..and shared your blog with the one directly offended as well.

    Thanks!

  25. Bob Burg said at 8:52 am on

    Kumar: Wow, what a great story. And, what a blessing to have a colleague/friend like that who proactively called you. And, kudos to you for being receptive to that advice even while you were feeling angry. Great story and lessons. Thank you for sharing with us!

  26. Bob Burg said at 8:54 am on

    Steve: WOW – another great lesson. Thank you. Hearing about something that just so recently happened – such as the incident you just related – makes it that much more real. And, glad that you were able to repair that post relationship. Thanks for sharing with us!

  27. Mark Puffer said at 10:17 am on

    As a rule I don’t send an emails like that. I think conflict should be handled one on one and not hiding behind a computer. But if email is the only option I generally type it up in a word document, print it, read it and wait 24 hours and then make any changes and create an email. If I save it as a draft and then go back to review it before sending it, I am afraid I may accidentally send it. The person at the other end may not know there is a problem and now you just sent a nasty email. Not good.

  28. Bob Burg said at 10:20 am on

    Mark: Great advice. While I’m not opposed to handling certain conflicts via email (again, as you implied, WHEN that is the best option) *if* done correctly, what you said makes total and absolute sense. Definitely creating an environment where a mistake is much less likely to occur. Thank you for sharing with us!

  29. Ali R. Rodriguez said at 10:55 am on

    Always ask for help; especially when angry. The emotion controls you, and you know it. At the end of the day is about creating a solution, saving face, and saving assets….as most relationships are valuable assets.

    <3

  30. Bob Burg said at 10:59 am on

    Ali: Asking for help, especially when angry…great advice! While one key to personal and professional success is to be in control of one’s emotions, part of wisdom is knowing when such is not the case (I’ve been there plenty, believe me) :-). And, reaching out for help from someone you trust can be a life-saver. Or, at least a relationship-saver. LOL

  31. Christie Ellis said at 11:29 am on

    Such a great lesson Bob. Sometimes I wish I had a delete or delay button on my mouth. Every once in a while it says stuff before I have the time to edit what is about to come out :)

  32. Bob Burg said at 11:56 am on

    Christie: Me, too Christie…me too! :-)

  33. mark Puffer said at 4:02 pm on

    On a different note I really like your books Endless Referrals, and The Go-Giver and the Go-Givers sell more. Excellent reads and great tools. Thank you. :)

  34. Bob Burg said at 4:13 pm on

    Thank you, Mark. What a kind compliment. Very appreciated!!

  35. Theresa Stuart said at 8:42 pm on

    Good Afternoon Bob,

    Hope life is treating you well. Once again you have offered some great content and good advise for all of us. I am sure all too often, I have been guilty of this very thing , (SEND before THINK) thank you so much for this information and advise on how better to handle things.

    Look forward to seeing you next time you are in Loe Angeles Area. take care and have a great rest of your day.

    Theresa

  36. Bob Burg said at 8:24 pm on

    Theresa: Thank you for your kind words. Always GREAT to hear from you!

  37. Susan Castle said at 6:57 am on

    Fantastic advice! I really enjoy venting all my frustrations into a really scathing email but hitting the send button never makes a situation better! The same advice should be used for all Facebook and blog comments!

  38. Bob Burg said at 7:29 am on

    Susan: Thank you. It never does, does it? And, yes, I agree that it holds for all comments. Thank you for sharing with us!

  39. Susan Castle said at 1:04 am on

    Even though it is soooooo tempting sometimes lol!

  40. Bob Burg said at 7:01 am on

    Absolutely it is!! ;-)

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