Communication Skills

A Survival Guide: Email Error #1: Sending an email to the wrong person

If you haven’t yet had that horribly nauseating feeling of realizing, about a nanosecond after hitting send, that you just sent an email to the wrong person, you will.

Sending an email (or text) that you forgot to proof, wasn’t complete, ranted when you should have found a way to rave, was poorly, foolishly and childishly written or worst of all, sent to the person you ranted about, is just one click away.

Here are 8 tips to survive that OMGOMGOMG. OMG moment:

1. Pick up the phone. Immediately. Don’t hide behind the medium with which you just messed up and try to email/text something witty or clever or even apologetic.

2. Don’t lie. You’ll just make it worse. You’ll be tempted. Don’t do it.

3. Speak your truth as in: I never should have sent that email. I was (fill-in-the-blank):

• (for an embarrasing typo or poorly written email): rushing because I wanted to get this information to you, rushing because I had to get to a meeting, rushing because I was trying to do too many things at once

• (for a childish, negative, angry email): frustrated/acting childish/being unprofessional because I was surprised I wasn’t included in the original discussion, frustrated/acting childish/being unprofessional because I thought I had a better solution and was not considering everyone else, frustrated/acting childish/being unprofessional and I really have no excuse

•(for a rant sent to the person you ranted about): wrong. What I did was wrong.

4. If they don’t pick up your call, leave your voice message and tell them you’ll call back at a certain time. Call back when you say you will and if they don’t answer, tell them that you are hopeful you can talk about your mistake and that you will email next week if you don’t connect before then.

5. Don’t panic (more than you already are). There is nothing you can do and time heals almost everything. Wait at least 5 days before sending another communication. Give them the time they need to heal and sort through their feelings. Remember this is about them, not about you.

6. Email them. Apologize (I am so sorry about the email/text I wrote last week) and ask if you can take them to lunch or coffee.

7. Be proactive. Don’t let the elephant sit between you. Speak your truth as in: “What I did was wrong and I realize that I should have talked to you about the situation rather than writing to someone else about it. I thought I couldn’t handle a direct conversation with you because I was so upset/frustrated/angry. But now I realize that was my failing and through this I have learned that the only professional way to behave is to talk with you directly.”

8. Keep quiet. Stay present. Don’t get defensive. Listen and learn! Remember this is about moving forward not backwards.

stupid. I was wrong to do what

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