10 Things You Should Never, Ever 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. Here are other rules of email etiquette you must follow.
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. “It’s easier to sling insults behind a screen than when you’re looking your partner in the eye.” If your partner insists on arguing over message, let him or her know you’d prefer to address it in person. Find out the seven things happy couples do when they fight.
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.” Learn more secrets to success from billionaires.
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 including credit card numbers (better to call and give the credit card number over the phone).” 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.” Here are more strategies for crafting the perfect apology.
“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.
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.” Find out the signs it’s time 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. Here are some ways to say “I love you” without words.
Sharing news of death
There are plenty of reasons why this topic of conversation should be reserved for in-person. “If at all possible, face-to-face is the best way to share about someone’s death. This allows for needed hugs and heartfelt words of sympathy.” Find out what to say to someone who is grieving.
No matter how much you hate your job—or what lead you to decide to quit in the first place—avoid making it official via text or email. “Say it in your head but keep it there and not on any electronic device because it will come back to haunt you,” warns Jacquelyn Youst, certified etiquette consultant and founder and president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol. “A resignation via email may feel good in the heat of the moment, but will have long-term consequences.” Instead, she recommends maintaining your professional demeanor and discussing it with your boss either on the telephone or in person. Read on for real-life stories of people who quit their jobs in the most epic ways.