How to write an email when you’re frustrated

People working in companies where teams are geographically distributed across time zones are familiar with the problems that the lack of  “face time” causes. Yes, there are phone calls, there is the IM chat, there are emails. However, more often that not these are inadequate means for conveying criticism or even frustration in my experience.

Being an honest yet sarcastic Estonian doesn’t help either. Being an English major who has the sufficient vocabulary for saying a lot of interesting things…. can sometimes be a disadvantage as well.

What do I do and how if I feel like I need communicate that I think something needs to be done differently, that I’m not happy with how things have ended up?

  1. Write the email.
  2. Rewrite it to delete all potentially ironic, sarcastic and stingy comments.
  3. Save the draft.
  4. Go home.
  5. Come back the next day and read it.
  6. Delete it. Usually, I have come up with a better solution and I can positively say I have avoided causing more damage by not sending the email.

This doesn’t mean I am avoiding being honest or communicating my thoughts. It means I need to choose my words carefully to make sure it’s not me just trying to vent myself instead of actually communicating. There may be a totally legitimate reason for me to feel very strongly about an issue. But even if I tone down my communication, I may still end up stinging people in a way I don’t mean to. I try to remember that it is just not worth it to put all further communication at risk and try to find more constructive solutions for driving the point home. Me being “right” sure feels nice but is it the most important thing in the world (and is it always important to let everyone know about it)?

I’ve learned that some of the best emails are those that are never sent.


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