15 Things You Should Never Say over Text or Email
Before you hit the send button on that text message or email, read this list of things you should never communicate through a screen.
Anything that requires in-depth discussion
Aside from the fact that no one enjoys read long, novel-length emails, it’s not a very good use of your time or the person at the other end of the screen’s time. If this is a workplace conversation, send an email that invites a recipient to a meeting to discuss the issue at hand, suggests Rachel Wagner, licensed corporate etiquette consultant. “Include an attached agenda of items to be discussed so attendees can come prepared with thoughts and ideas to brainstorm,” she says. “Have a specific start and stop time and, if the meeting requires additional time, plan a follow-up meeting.” This is respectful to all schedules involved and allows for a focused and efficient use of everyone’s time, she adds. Learn how to recognize the most annoying email habits you really need to stop.
Fighting with your partner
If you’ve been together a while, and especially if you live together, it’s common to fight through any means of communication you use. But experts warn against text or email arguing. “It’s impossible to read tone and see body language over a message, so it’s too tempting to read the worst into your partner’s typed words,” says Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor in the Columbus, Ohio area and owner of The Popular Man. If your partner insists on arguing over text message, let him or her know you’d prefer to address it in person.
If emotions do start to simmer during a text conversation, it’s best to play nice. There’s something about talking through a screen that makes it easy to say things you’ll regret. “It’s easier to sling insults behind a screen than when you’re looking your partner in the eye,” says Bennett. Keep it civil. Your partner will be much more receptive to “Could your mom pop by tomorrow instead, after we’ve had a chance to clean?” than to “No way am I letting that vile woman come tonight and insult the home that SOMEBODY is too big of a slob to clean!” Getting that off your chest might feel good at first, but it will just start a bigger fight later.
Anything negative or sarcastic
Remember that once an email is sent, it can be resurfaced at any time. “Even if you later regret sending that gossipy email and decide to delete it from your ‘sent’ email and even from your ‘trash,’ most companies have sophisticated software that can retrieve even deleted emails,” explains Wagner. And those emails can also be used legally in court. For these reasons, she suggests confronting these issues face-to-face where there’s no paper trail that can follow you forever. “This conveys professionalism and shows your willingness to have those ‘hard’ conversations versus hiding the issue behind a computer screen.” You’ll definitely think twice before sending after reading these 8 real-life stories of embarrassing email mistakes.
Sharing intimate or sensitive personal information
Because communication through means of technology is how we converse and spread information the most, it can be hard to halt conversation when something sensitive or private comes up. But, ask yourself: Do you want that paper trail? “Because texts and emails can be forwarded to others, or be sent as Blind Carbon Copies (BCC), anyone in the world can read them!” says Wagner. “Avoid sending anything about new company initiatives, confidential company information, confidential board meeting information, and confidential personal information.” Find out the all the ways technology is making you stupid.
Apologies of any kind
Sure, it’s a lot easier to type out the words, “I’m sorry,” than to actually say them out loud, but the former doesn’t hold quite as much meaning than the latter. You might not really mean it—or you might! Without the other person seeing or hearing you, it’s hard to tell. “If you need to apologize to someone for something, it’s not a good time for more misunderstandings and miscommunications to come into play,” says Deb Cheslow, life coach, achievement expert and the author of Unrealogical: Real People, Remarkable Stories of Transformation. “Pick up the phone.”
“We have to talk”
Sending a cryptic phrase such as this might be harmless to you, who knows exactly what type of conversation needs to be had, but to the person on the other end, it can be frightening. “Simply put, the other person edge as they wait for the shoe to drop,” says David Radin, leadership effectiveness consultant and CEO and co-creator of Confirmed Instant Scheduler. At the very least, it’s respectful to ask the person if they have some time to set aside to have an in-person discussion because there’s something you’d like to share. Check out these other annoying texting mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
Breaking up with a romantic partner
Breaking up is hard to do no matter how it’s done, but you should avoid communicating this concept via text or email. “Inevitably this happens because the person doing the breaking up doesn’t want to face the rejected one, either because he or she is afraid to hurt them or because they’re trying to avoid a scene,” says April Masini, New York-based relationship and etiquette expert. “Regardless of the reason, if you’ve been dating someone long enough that a break up is warranted, doing it by text is very bad manners. In-person is the way to break up.”
Saying “I love you” for the first time
Whether you’re a teenager, a 20-something, or part of the 50+ crew, these three words should hold a lot of meaning, and certainly not be shared for the first time using as carefree of a method as a text or email. Additionally, what if the person doesn’t see the message for hours, or even days? How are you going to feel? Or, what if they don’t care to respond with an “I love you too?” Save yourself—and them—the grief of dealing with this scenario by saying those words in person instead. Find out which things about your relationship you should never post on social media.