All of us have been angry or upset at someone else at least a few times in our lives. No matter how accepting, reconciling and peaceful you are, you are bound to get into a situation where you get angry with a friend, co-worker or a member of your family. It seems as if the anger in our lives is growing in the last few decades, but I am not sure that this is an actual true statistic. I think that nowadays we have a lot more tools to express our anger in a public manner that it has become much more obvious and in our face. The Internet has made all of us a bit of a media wannabe and we have at the tip of our fingers magnificent tools such as forums, blogs and micro-blogs, email, social networks, syndication and so much more. It’s so much easier to say what you want to say and so much faster to say the things you will later regret. And this is the subject of this post…
Email is definitely an integral part of our life, almost as common as any utility. Regardless of age or background of any kind, a vast majority of people have some sort of personal computer that they use to send and receive emails. And that turned our communication from spoken to written almost in all cases. I am sure that most of you sent an email to a co-worker in the next room with a one-liner such as: “I am ready, should we go to lunch?” All logic dictates that a short call or a walk to the next room, or even a shout would be a little more normal, for the lack of a better word. I say the lack of a better word, because the truth is that email is “normal” nowadays and people find it hard to believe that there is any other mean to communicate. Unfortunately or not, we have to accept that the digital communication will only continue to evolve over the next few decades and that email will be, for quite some time, the major method of communication.
So, now, let’s put anger and email together to get closer to what I want to say… Anger is a very powerful sentiment. Most things that are extreme spawn from anger. Love, passion and kindness are very powerful too, but the likelihood of one person to act irrationally, impulsively and without a clear sight of the potential effects of those actions, driven by these feelings is very remote compared to those that come from anger. Most people will not act when angry, but they will explode verbally. They will yell, scream and curse. Others, will keep their emotions even more bottled-in, but they will have that inner voice that screams like the sounds of a thousand demons inside their heads, doing probably nothing more than feeding a life-long ulcer. The society today taught us to behave, and therefore, when we are angry, we are being conditioned to refrain from acting wild and will do our best to keep our emotions inside. But there has to be a way to open the valve and let some of that steam out. And this is where email comes from…
Email is a really, really strange medium of communication, and here is why. When you write an email, you don’t have the ability to write as fast as you talk. So, you have a bit of time to gather your thoughts and the process is slower. While you write, your conscious mind is “talking”. As you write your email, you actually see yourself, facing the recipient of your message, as if you were facing each other in a room. You may not have this precise image, but you feel the presence one way or another. And while you write, you are actually “speaking” to this person. The difference between this type of communication and a normal conversation is that the other person will not be able to answer, or if they do, they will answer exactly what you think or wish they would answer. And therefore, the discussion becomes a monologue, or a conversation that you will “win.” And that’s the root of the danger of writing an email while angry.
When you have a conversation with a person face to face, you see their expression, you hear them speak, they are able to interrupt you, give you feedback or reasons for whatever you are angry about. During the conversation, the discussion may become heated, you might curse or say bad things, but sooner or later you will be able to reach some sort of reconciliation or understanding. Once you do that, what is left in your mind is just that: we found a common ground, we both said things, but now let’s move on. When you write an email, things are different. There is no one to intimidate you on the other side. You feel in control, and you are driving both characters – yourself and the recipient. You will not be censored and you will feel empowered while your anger escalates exponentially. You don’t give the other the ability to defend him/herself. Instead, you build your anger which can only result in you saying things that you will regret later on. Maybe later you will realize that you took something out of context or out of proportions or you were simply missing a piece of information… But once you hit that Send button, your written anger is now stapled in black and white forever in the other’s mailbox. You do not have the same end of talk as you do in person, because usually the end of talk takes place much later. The person you wrote the email to, will read it alone, probably quite a while after you sent it. It’s going to be very difficult to take some of those words back, now that they’ve been typed and sent. Much harder than the way a handshake and a smile can end a very heated discussion.
So, what to do? Well, I suggest that anytime you feel extremely angry, before trying to write an email about it, take some time to think about it. Give it a day or a few hours. Wait until you break your current state. You can use various methods. Find a funny video on YouTube and spend an hour clearing your mind. Once you come back, once you are no longer as angry as you were before, then you can sit down and write your email. And when you do, make sure that you do not let the anger take you over once again. If you are a person with logic, you will be able to address the issue in a decent manner and you will be able to express your anger, but not the same way as you would if you were writing it while angry. If a problem appears at work or in your personal life that actually requires you to be angry, I am not saying to turn it around and make it sweet and shiny. If the situation needs you to be upset and express that, by all means, do it, but do not do it WHEN you are angry. If you do, you will not deliver the message, you will deliver just blind anger. The other person will not understand or be able to correct what needs to be corrected, because they will be thinking about the angry words you sent to them.
Well, that’s about it… I hope this little piece of advice will help you deal with your next crisis in a manner that will not make you regret anything later.