Beware tired and emotional typing

by Peter Crocker

We’ve all said things we regret. In the real world, a sincere face-to-face apology and explanation can usually put things right, but in the virtual world our words can take on a life of their own.

You may have heard of the dangers of text messaging under the influence (TUI). Also known as ‘intexication’, TUI can result in mistaken messages being sent and things said that are deeply regretted in the cold light of day. One example I read about was an amorous text message meant for boyfriend ‘Dan’ accidentally going to ‘Dad’ with the press of a wrong button. Not great!

But in a business context I’d expand TUI to be ‘tired and emotional typing’ (TET). By that I mean pounding the keyboard when you’re angry, frustrated, irrational, have had a few drinks or otherwise not quite yourself.

In the real-time world of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, online reviews, iPhones, email and the ever-dangerous REPLY ALL button, it has never been easier to say more stuff, more quickly to more people.

That can be a great opportunity to build a good reputation, but if you have a tendency to fly off the handle, there’s never been a bigger mouth to shove your foot into. Compounding the problem is the fact Google has a memory like an elephant.

Very occasionally on our forums, articles or newsletters (often late at night!), someone fires off a heated response that more often than not they would like to retract quickly afterwards.

Here are a few reasons why it’s easy to get in trouble online: 

Anonymity – the sense that no-one knows you makes you bolder than you would be face to face. 

Ease – you can fire off a response in seconds before stopping to think.

Temporary – there is a false sense that digital communication is not permanent. 

Context and tone – jokes or harmless comments can backfire when taken out of context.

One rule I try to follow in business is to never write something that I’d be ashamed for a wider audience to see. You never know when an email might be forwarded on with a long trail of comments never meant for more public consumption. If in doubt, I’ll save a draft and review it in the morning.

Have you had any email or online communications disasters in your business? How do you avoid the pitfalls of real-time communication? Go on, have a rant, it’s just between us.

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