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Tips to avoid sending emails you don't want to send, by David S. Allen

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It all began with an innocent question. When it was over and the smoke had cleared, a relationship had been destroyed, a large account had been lost and two people had been fired.

It happened because of one email.

Barbara, the customer, emailed Gary, her vendor, to inquire about a possible problem with an invoice she received. Gary forwarded Barbara’s email to Jonathan in the accounting department.

Jonathan immediately fired back an email to Gary: “I personally answered this SAME question the LAST TIME she asked—just two months ago!!! Geez I am tired of dealing with her!!! No wonder she’s in trouble over there. Below is a copy of what I sent to her. Do me a favor. The next time she has a question, leave me out of it. I don’t want any more of her questions about how I do my job!!!”

Later that afternoon, Barbara emailed Gary again to find out whether he had an answer to the possible invoice problem.

“Oops. So sorry. I meant to respond this morning,” he emailed back. “Accounting found what you need. See below.”

And with that, Gary forwarded the entire email thread.

It is estimated that 200 billion emails are sent every day. That’s about 25 emails per day for every person on the planet. Yes, there are plenty of opportunities for email goofs. Here are tips to avoid three of the most serious.

1. Never forward an email unless you are 101 percent sure there is nothing in the email thread that could cause problems. Copying and pasting relevant information into an original email is a much safer choice than forwarding.

2. If you need to send an email that is sensitive in nature, don’t address it until you are ready to send. Write the email, make sure it communicates exactly what you want to say, then type the recipient’s name. That prevents an accidental SEND from occurring.

3. Before you blast someone with an angry email, wait to send until the next business day. Better to allow that kind of email to marinate overnight. It’s amazing how a night’s sleep and a new day can change a mood and a perspective.