We have all been there. Angry, hurt, drunk or just plain idiotic and we’ve bashed out an email venting our frustrations. The next morning we’ve held our head in our hands and asked why, oh why did I do that.
Well now Google has introduced its Undo Send feature to Gmail on Android phones. And not before time.
The feature has been available for the web version of Gmail for some years and now it is being carried over to the official mobile version of Google’s email app. The feature should be available for the Gmail version 8.7.
The Undo Send feature first started as a Google Labs experiment back in 2015. It works by implementing a time-delay on sent emails that lets you withdraw the email within 10 seconds.
Oh dear, oh dear!
Throughout history there has been the philosophical question whether it was better to vent than to hold it in. Aristotle believed in the benefits of catharsis and Freud believed talking through your problems encouraged you to express your anger.
However, with the advent of instant communications this can become a profound life changing moment.
Take love-struck Joseph Dobbie, who in 2006 met a girl at a party and fell for her. Arriving late at night back home he sent her a cringe-worthy romantic email with his phone number. She unfortunately forwarded it to her sister and ending up with millions of people reading it.
Consequently, Joseph was bombarded with mocking phone calls from around the world.
Or how about Headmaster Patrick Hazlewood who replied to a complaint from Mary Kelly to his bursar after pupils were constantly invading her garden. Poor old Mr Hazlewood wrote to the bursar with the words, ‘tell her to get stuffed’ and then hit reply all. Ms Kelly of course received the message.
Perhaps one of the most notorious was when after 9-11 Trade Centre attack, Transport Secretary advisor Jo Moore emailed colleagues suggesting it was a good day to bury bad news. After abject apologies she lost her job.
The problem with emails is they are notoriously difficult to gauge. There tends not to be any real platform for context, nuance or tone. In fact, by their very nature emails can come across as very blunt and direct.
Emails also give us a false sense of safety. This is especially true for those of us who hate confrontation. Unfortunately, a discussion on email allows no opportunity to read body language or other non-verbal clues with those you’re in contact with.
And its permanent. An old-fashioned letter was exclusively for the recipient and temporary, not so with emails and once out there they are there for ever. It can also be copied and go viral with little control from you.
Emails can be like viruses, laying dormant for ages but suddenly rearing into the public sphere with terrible consequences. Just ask your average red-top journalist who sit on incriminating emails for ages before choosing the moment of maximum damage.
What should you do?
Delay hitting the send button. One way is to write the email you really want to write but then store it away as a draft. Give it a good night’s sleep then read it the next morning. You can then make a more rational decision as to what to do with it.
Do something else to vent your anger. Maybe a walk, listening to calming music or breath deeply before splurging your anger into an email.
Are you getting angrier and angrier then maybe seek some help? Perhaps remove yourself from the situation find a friend who you trust.
As with all forms of communication there have always been codes of etiquette. Check out on the web where many helpful sites have advice as to what you should do or not do on an email.
Also, check out the policies at your workplace. If you don’t follow them there can be serious consequences.
Yes, it’s so tempting at times to vent your frustration and can feel good to get it off your chest. But remember anger is an energy! And in our connected world this can have far-reaching and terrible consequences.