React and Regret, Reflect and Correct: A Crucial Lesson for Emails and Social Media

After a full night’s sleep, I woke up today feeling pleasantly refreshed and calm.  Starting work, I opened emails that had come through, working out what needed attention in the near future and what was less urgent.

One email sprang out at me. Though friendly and well intentioned, it was misinformed, with expectations that I knew I would not be able to follow up. Immediately, I could feel my mood change to concern, agitation and annoyance.

My immediate response was to mutter angrily to myself and set to writing a reply there and then with a view to sending it with quick dispatch. This would help give relief to my uncomfortable feelings and establish clarity again.

A warning voice came to me, reminding me how important it is to resist going for the knee jerk response when working with others especially since I was not communicating with them face to face when I could respond more subtly to how they expressed themselves verbally and non-verbally. I risked adopting an aggressive, offended tone that would cause upset rather than help the situation. I had to hold back and leave some time and space in my mind to arrive at a considered and balanced response. A walk proved just the thing.

While I ambled along, I was able to regain my composure, think through how to phrase my email and relate my particular case to the wider impact that rushed and ill-considered messages are having in social media. It is all too easy to give way to visceral reactions when printing words on a machine and then throw them out into the ether with just one click. How immediately gratifying. Yet, how potentially damaging in the long run if we do not reflect first, taking into account the feelings and viewpoints of our recipients and applying some self-control.

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