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How to avoid e-mail disasters Add to ...

Judith Kallos: There are times when a phone conversation or in-person meeting are simply the right thing to do. This has nothing to do with how it started; but if you want to be "fair," be a stand-up person, show some character and pick up the phone or meet in person.

Now, if you never met the person face-to-face, then there is no reason to do so now. But if you have, one should be a better person and not take the easy way out by using e-mail for this type of communication. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do.

Randal Oulton from Toronto Canada writes: In the old days, when one put pen to paper, the rule of thumb was never to post on the day it was written a letter with a great deal of emotion in it. Whether the emotion was blazing anger or burning love, you sat on it overnight and had a look at it in the cold hard light of day on the morrow. Maybe your blazing anger tone was stronger than you now felt, a day after you'd slept some of it off. Maybe your burning love tone made you look like a stalker and was guaranteed to drive the object of your affection further in the opposite direction. We can still do that. In the programme I use for email, I have the choice whether I want emails to whoosh out straight away through the server, or to accumulate in a local inbox until I tell it to transfer them to the server to commence their whooshing across the ether. And that's what I do. With age, there are of course fewer missives of great passion, and fewer unguarded moments. But I do catch a lot of typos.

Rasha Mourtada, Toronto: I think that when a person is upset about something that's just happened, there's often an urge to fire off a heated email right away. But once the person's calmed down -- they might regret it. Do you have advice on a waiting period before sending off an emotional email? Is it ever ok to send an emotional email, anyway? Or are those words better reserved for an in-person encounter?

Judith Kallos: Your question has to do with discretion and the specifics of the situation at hand. I advise folks to wait until the next morning before clicking send. You'll be surprised about how you may view the sender's e-mail (maybe you read more into it than is there) and your reply much differently (you will tweak your verbiage -- guaranteed!).

There will be times when emotional e-mails will be sent -- we are human beings after all. The key is to make sure that your intent and tone are that which you desire and that you take the high road no matter how emotional or rude the other side may be.

There will be times where not responding is the best response of all.

Rebecca Dube: Thanks very much for answering these questions on netiquette, Ms. Kallos, and thanks to everyone who submitted questions.

One last question, on something that I'm wondering about -- what should you do if you're the one who gets an e-mail that's not meant for you? This actually happened to me once, a colleague wrote an e-mail complaining about something I had done (a totally unwarranted complaint, of course!) and meant to send it to someone else, but mistakenly sent it to me. I confronted him on it, and he apologized for sending me the e-mail but not for what he said in it. It was more of an annoyance than something blatantly offensive, so I just gave him a raised eyebrow of disapproval and walked away. But in general, how should you respond when you're the wronged party in an e-mail exchange gone awry?

Judith Kallos: Go speak to the person, in person, and ask them if you can have a moment of time to discuss the e-mail. This is not the time to get into a back and forth e-mail exchange or BCc'ing supervisors or bosses to CYA. Doing so will more times than not will have you looking trivial and unprofessional.

You did the right thing by going and talking to him! You took the high road, showed some character and professionalism with him, when apparently he didn't have the ability to offer the same level of respect and courtesy to you. So you come out shining!

It has been great doing this chat -- what fun! If your readers ever have any questions or concerns about how to use e-mail properly, they can ask and join in the conversations over on my Blog at: http://www.EmailEtiquetteMatters.com.

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