How to Dial-Back the Hasty Email

I hit “send” on an email, and immediately regretted it.

It was to a friend and colleague. We had a touchy business situation going on, and I realized that I was way too cold and formal in the email, and she was likely to misinterpret it and/or be offended.

Below is how I handled the situation, outlined in four steps. After our conversation, the recipient of my hasty email gave me some good feedback, and suggested I share it in the blog.

We think you can apply these steps anytime you send an email that your gut immediately tells you “you screwed up” –

Step one – Pick up the phone and call the recipient. If they don’t answer, use a text to request an immediate phone call. If there isn’t a response in a short time, you may have to start with a voice mail. If the recipient is in the same building, find them immediately.

Step two – Say some version of this: “That email was not a comment on you, or how I feel about our relationship. It was a total reflection of my fear/insecurity in the moment I wrote it. I shouldn’t have sent it. I wasn’t thinking straight. Please forgive me.”

Step three – Invite them to either delete without reading, OR have them read it while you’re on the phone with them. This is an important step. You don’t want to spend an entire conversation with worrying and wondering. You’ll be worried about their response when and if they read it. They’ll be wondering what the heck was in this email that put you into such a panic.

Step four – Listen. Converse about the tough issue. At some point, share “what I should have said was…” Vulnerability helps. Sincerity is necessary.

And next time, pause before you hit send.

Avoid composing and/or sending emails about critical issues when you’re not at your best. Or, start with the face-to-face instead of using email.

What do you think?

4 Responses

  1. Tom Henricksen
    | Reply

    Great points Alan! I know we have all done something like this and having these steps helps us navigate those situations in the future. Hope all is going well with your book launch!

  2. Samantha
    | Reply

    Love that you’re sharing your story to help others… We all do it, and it’s good to have a plan.

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