Putting a Stop to Angry Emails

Most of us know how the story of how Abraham Lincoln often vented his anger by viciously scribing his thoughts in a letter to the offender and then never sending the note.

In 2012, we are rarely writing letters. Arguably the greatest communication-enabling invention since the telephone, email facilitates fast, efficient communication. With this new ease of correspondence, Lincoln’s example is often forgotten and e-missiles are fired around the internet.

Emotionally charged letters often hurt the recipient; sometimes they hurt the sender. Responding via email not only escalates the potential damage (as things are copied, forwarded, and blind copied) it fuels the fire rather without fixing the problem. Don’t you wish you could put an end to angry emails and build a bridge with the sender?

Stop the barrage of angry emails by:

Walking Away

Take a breath, get a drink of water, or go for a walk. I like to go work out and/or read my Bible.

Getting the Details

Is there any justification for their reaction? Give them the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t you want the same?

Printing the Email

Make the decision that this will not continue via email. The buck stops here.

Sleeping on It

In order to quell emotions, take a whole night to calm down. You may even seek counsel from someone completely unconnected to the situation.

Requesting a Meeting

Send them a letter thanking them for expressing their concern and request a meeting time or walk down to their office and calmly ask, “Hey Bill, I just received this email from you and I am confused. I read your letter like this…. What’s up?” 9 out of 10 times their boldness and passion disappears. 1 out of 10 times they will blast you in the face. That is life. Either way, the situation is now being handled properly. No to mention, I can almost guarantee they will not send many more emails like that.

Following Lincoln’s example with the Lomax twist might save you a relationship, your reputation, or may be even your job!

Have you ever taken an e-missle firefight into live peace talks?


  1. I think the face to face meeting that you mention at the bottom is the best way to do things. Either that or on the phone. Email is devoid of tone of voice, and I’ve found that it’s incredibly easy to misinterpret people or to be misinterpreted. If it’s anything that’s remotely incendiary, I pick up the phone.

    •  The face-to-face (or telephone) response has an amazing impact on e-missles! Rather than contributing to the destruction, it is taking a step towards building a bridge while also communicating this is not how we deal things.

  2. I have learned from past experiences that email, text, Facebook or Skype chats are NOT the appropriate venues for any kind of conflict resolution. Tone and body language aren’t present in those medium and it’s easy to missinterpret what is really being said. I always opt for face-to-face chatting when it comes to issues like this.

    •  Good points! Any writing on email etiquette or conflict resolution will inform you that email and most other forms of electronic or written communication are valuable for transferring heart and sentiment. They transmit cold, dark ink on a page (or screen). Thanks for commenting!

  3. I have found that having someone else ‘proof’ an extremely important or potentially volatile email will often soften things.  It also gives me time to think on what and how I say …  or … if I even need to send the communication at all.

    •  That’s an excellent idea and definitely something I have done before. Sometimes I find myself correcting things before I even send it to the proof reader. Great addition!

  4. Hey Noah,

    Lincoln taught us well.  Since knowing Lincoln did that during his days, I’ve been doing the same and shared the it with people whom I work with and mentor.   However, it is best to type your angry letter on Word Document than on an email, because someone I know accidentally send it anyway when he was attempting to save it on draft.   
    I always remind people that saying hurtful words is like driving nails into a wood.  When you say “I’m sorry” that is an attempt to pull the nail out, but the whole is still there.  When people says time heals the wound, the scare on the wood will stay forever.  We might forgive and try to forget, but the thought that we hurt people’s feeling should always a remind to think twice and say once.

    By the way, great post!   I’d like to share my blog http://willlukang.wordpress.com  

    Best regards,

    Will Lukang

    • Thanks for the great addition, Will! I actually do the same for the exact same reason. I just struggled getting that idea to fit into this post naturally. I’m so glad you posted!

      I’m out of town leading a student inner-city service trip to New York, so my connectivity is limited (because of our schedule, not NY). I look forward to checking out your blog when I get home!


Speak Your Mind