Have you been here?
It’s 9pm, you are sitting at home having a great night and hanging out with friends or your Mrs and you hear your phone vibrate. Curiously you lean over and pick it up not missing a beat in your conversation and noticing it’s an email you open it up to see what it is and then you read it…..
All of a sudden it’s like no one else is in the room, all you can do it pour over the words, the critical comments, accusations and your heart begins to sink. Your friends call your name but you can’t hear them as you are focussed solely on the words on your screen.You read it once and then again to check if they are really saying what you think they are. Finally you snap out of the trance and they ask you if everything is okay and you say it is, but you know it isn’t.
You are rattled, frustrated, mad and annoyed not only at the email but that you opened it and now it is ruining the evening for you. What do you do next?
About a year ago, this exact situation played itself out for me, the email was harsh, it was critical, it had many false or exaggerated points and made me feel nothing short of sick inside. I like many others took to my computer to lay out my response to the email and set the record straight.
I articulated a rebuttal / explanation to every point they had made, did my best to explain why they were incorrect in their understanding of the issues. My argument was a case closed victory for the good guys! Well at least I thought so then, and by the grace of God I did not hit the send button on that message. Instead I waited and the next morning I called my mentor and shared with him the content of the message and how it made me feel and he quickly asked me, “Please tell me you did’t you reply yet?”
“Not yet” I replied and he said “good, DON’T REPLY TO THAT EMAIL!”
He continued and explained to me that sending an email in frustration is never a good idea but replying to an accusatory email is like putting ammunition in their gun. You relinquish all control once you hit send, you have no control over perceived tone or where the content goes from there and all of those words are can be used against you in the court of public opinion or the court of your Lead Pastor. Your case closed argument might lead to the case being closed on your job.
When I looked back at the email I drafted that night, I am so thankful I didn’t send it, I was writing from a place of being hurt, feeling wounded and the tone of my message was like someone backed into a corner and swinging. I was hurtful, rude, arrogant and self righteous and I am thanful I follow the advice of my mentor who said quite simply:
“Pick up the phone”
Call the person, hear them out, help them feel heard, help them understand where you are coming from on the issues. Write down what you talked about, and clarify at the end of the conversation about what they heard and understood from your chat. If you have the opportunity to meet in person even better. Tone is not assumed on the phone like it is on an email, and your words don’t get forwarded around from a phone call either.
If you receive a harsh or critical email from a parent, pick up the phone, don’t reply to that email, you won’t regret it.