Before you send...
Over 6.5 trillion texts are sent and received each year, sometimes ending with regret. An angry, emotional, or passive-aggressive text or email might give someone “a piece of your mind” and you confidently hit send because, for just a moment, it felt good. But chances are you quickly wish you could unsend.
Texts can also be problematic if you forget to double-check your autocorrect. And sometimes worse, you forget to double, no, triple check who you are sending it to.
I know a young lady (who may or may not be my daughter) who had broken up with a boy. The following weekend she was having a dinner party and sent a group text inviting several friends. She was not cautious with her “send” and HE was on the text. Here is the real bummer...he showed up. I imagine he was thinking this could be his second chance at this relationship. It was not. She had to, for the second time, let him know he was a nice guy, but she just wanted to be friends. BRUTAL. An extra level of caution, a double check, would have changed the entire outcome and saved this guy from another moment that proved to be AWKWARD.
Ctrl+Z or Alt+Backspace
In the upper left corner of your computer is a diminutive yet powerful icon called undo. One press and POOF, your last action is deleted. Ever wish in life you had an undo button? Wish you could avoid those moments of panic or thoughts like, “S***, wish I could take that back.”
You are not alone. In fact, this is so common that apps exist such as On Second Thought, which affords you up to 60 seconds to un-send a message. This got me thinking. Do we really need an app to remind us to be mindful of others?
As a traveling speaker, I spend many nights alone in a hotel room. At times it’s nice and I look forward to it. I can soak in the tub. Use a face mask that fools me into believing I’ll look 20 years younger. I remember years ago practicing how to master the selfie in the privacy of my own hotel room. I never did learn the art of “selfies” and ended up deleting my 123 attempts, but where else can you do something so ridiculous? And perhaps the best part, the remote is all mine!. No comments from my hubby about my trash tv. Upon arriving at my destination, I will often have dinner with a client; these are connections I love to make. One evening I arrived at my hotel after a long trip, bouncing around in several different time zones, and I underestimated how exhausted I would be. Knowing it would be best for me to get a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed for my keynote the next day, I canceled plans with my client telling her I was just too tired. I fell asleep, only to wake a few hours later very hungry so I walked to this cute little restaurant across the street from the hotel and had a late-night dinner. The next morning my client texted me to say, “You must be starving. We can stop for breakfast on the way.” Too quickly I replied, “Thanks, but I had a nice dinner last night and will be fine.” Awkward. I was forced to clumsily explain things to my client. That was a text that I would like back.
The Gate Checker...
The digital world is where we live. It can be life-saving, dangerous, regretful, embarrassing, and funny all at once.
So how do we limit finding ourselves on the wrong side of this digital platform? How do we avoid regret and those "oops" moments? People say as you get older you get wiser. Hopefully, this is true, but I’ve also become more cautious. More out of necessity. When you are coming from an emotional space, consider three gates you should go through before you speak, text, email, or write. This will help ensure that you will be thinking wisely before you hit send.
Is it true? Are my words truly how I feel or am I reacting out of anger, hurt, or frustration?
Is it kind? Will I regret my words?
Is it necessary? Do my words help or hurt the situation?
Remember a text or email is not intuitive and does not afford you the benefit of voice inflection or body language. Emojis can only go so far. And emoji’s are not neutralizers and may backfire, adding another layer to the misunderstanding. Do not try to hide your anger or spitefulness behind a smile emoji. You risk being seen as inauthentic or passive-aggressive. Neither of which are attractive attributes.
Looks like you peed your pants!
I was talking about this blog idea with my friend Sara (pictured right) and she shared with me, in her own words, the following story.
In 2005 I was working as a middle school teacher – in my mid 20’s and had been teaching about five years and technology was still fairly new. A student had earned detention for not coming prepared to class multiple times in a row, tardy to class, and being disruptive. That afternoon his dad emailed me a nasty email questioning my teaching credentials and my classroom management. “Oh no, he didn’t,” I thought and instantly put my fingers to the keyboard and started typing away all about my credentials, management and questioning his parenting and his sons’ disruptive behaviors. . . then pressed SEND! I now look back at that moment and think to myself “oh no, you didn’t”! Within minutes a response from the father came back and it didn’t say “thank you for the clarification” or “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” instead it said he would be going straight to the superintendent with my message! My heart sank, my stomach instantly formed knots and I started to sweat . . . I got up and walked myself straight to the principal’s office. I wanted my principal to hear about it from me before the superintendent. I explained what happened and he looked at me and said “Well, it looks like you peed your pants!” My chin dropped and I was in shock. “What?” He said, “Sara, like peeing your pants – you instantly felt relief and now you have a mess to clean up.” We then had to talk through what it would look like for me to apologize, build trust again, and learn from my mistake and move on.
How To Avoid Text Regret…
Pause before regret… if we could learn to pause before pressing send, we could avoid some regret. Regret is a form of punishment within itself. It can be embarrassing and all-consuming. The keywords connected to regret are, “I wish.” Regret leaves us wishing we had made different choices and longing for a redo.
Once you hit the “send” button, too late. Here are some ways to avoid “text regret”, all learned from my own personal bank of communication blunders.
1. Do not write emails or texts when you are angry. The chances for well-received and productive communication are almost zero. Our bodies are amazing machines and if we listen, can guide our actions. Anger, frustration, and sadness trigger physical responses such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, or increased blood pressure. These physical cues are clear clues that we need to pause before we respond.
2. Be mindful of your tone. Research has shown that the tone of an email is always read as more negative than the sender intends. Sadly, this is human nature; we instinctively move toward a negative reaction quicker than a positive, so over-compensate to avoid this.
3. Double-check your autocorrect.
4. Triple check that you are sending it to the right person.
5. Sarcasm is dangerous. Just don’t use it. It’s hard enough to pull off sarcasm in a one-on-one interaction, even more difficult via technology.
6. Do not react without thought. If you’re on the receiving end of a message that seems to be accusatory or critical, don’t respond right away. It’s human nature to become defensive. Let it sit for a day before responding. Sometimes a “piece of your mind” isn’t the best thing on the menu.
Texting is not going away. Make sure of the trillion-plus texts that are sent each year, yours land exactly as you intended them to. Make them a practical and positive part of your daily interactions.