The Single Biggest Mistake in Email: Failing to Cool Off Before Hitting The Send Button

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It happens to all of us, you get a message that irritates you to the core and you angrily pound out a scathing reply. You hit the final key, “Send” and you feel a momentary sensation of intense satisfaction.

What feels good for the moment could haunt you for years to come. It is in your best interest to avoid the urge to verbally retaliate via the written word – no matter how much satisfaction it will bring.

Never write an email when you’re angry. Take some time to cool off. If the situation permits, reply the next day. If that’s not possible, at least get up from your desk and take a little break to cool off before your reply.

The old adage, “two wrongs don’t make a right” truly applies here. No matter how wrong the other person may be, resist the urge to retaliate and keep your reply factual, organized and without emotion. Whenever possible, offer a positive benefit to the reader in your reply.

Here is an example of a reply you can use – yes, please plagiarize if it helps you.

Situation: A coworker wrongly accuses you of making a mistake that caused the company to lose their best customer. Not only did they send you this message in an email, they copied your boss and other company officials on the message. How can you reply?


Losing the Graves account is certainly not good news. However, I’d like to clarify that I was not responsible for missing the deadline on their last product delivery.

Perhaps there may be a way to repair the relationship. I would be happy to help, if possible. Would you like me to contact Mr. Graves and offer a highly discounted delivery by the end of the week?

Please let me know if I can assist.


Let’s take a closer look at the reply and ways you can diffuse a volatile situation.

First, no retaliation was present, only a short presentation of fact that you did not cause the problem. Second, you present a benefit to the reader (and the company) by offering to help with a potential solution to the problem.

With this type of reply, you are able to turn a slanderous message into a one that casts you in a positive light. You have kept your reply factual, organized and without emotion – with an added potential benefit to all readers. Now you’re safe to hit the “send” button.


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