I just saw an email that caused me to say "Oh my!" and it reminded me of the dangers that emails present. I suspect that if it could be recalled it would be but that is not possible and now it is being circulated to places and people the author probably does not desire.

Five things to remember about all emails we send:

First: Do not assume they will not be made public. The more controversial the conversation the greater the chances there are that whatever you write will find its way into the hands of others. All it takes is one click. Do not write anything that you don't want others to see and that you cannot substantiate. Our tone, our words, our attitudes and our assumptions matter in print and they can easily be wrong or badly misunderstood.

Second: Do not question the motives of others. In the first place you may well be wrong. In the main we cannot know what those motives really are. Conversations may unearth them but emails rarely will and you run the risk that you have it wrong - but now in print.

Third: Do not make accusations you cannot prove and even if you can that will not be understood by others who might read the email. Emails are not the place to make accusations. I am reluctant to do so in person let alone by email. And remember that even if you are right, those who are friends of the one you are writing to will rarely agree with you and it probably will come back to bite you. Why pick fights that you don't need to pick?

Fourth: Do not use inflammatory language. The harsher the language the tougher it is going to be to resolve whatever issue needs resolution. Inflammatory language raises the level of conflict, can be accusatory by its very nature and is unnecessary in an email. Even if everything you say is true, third parties who may see the email will inevitably take exception to you and what you wrote - and you will lose coinage.

Five: Don't make a threat by email. There may be consequences to someone's actions but rarely is it helpful to threaten them in a way that could go public, or that will be misunderstood by third parties.

If one is tempted to send an email that violates any of these five principles it is a smart practice to first wait 24 hours before sending it and second to have a colleague you trust read it. If it has implications for your organization or ministry, show it to your supervisor before sending because if it comes back to haunt you it will also haunt them. 

  • Dec 20, 2021
  • Category: News
  • Comments: 0
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