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.
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Just a flutter of the fingers away
Given the way society has adopted technology into our daily communication process, there are some things that are appropriate to put in an email or text now that wasn’t a decade ago. However, sometimes (re: most of the time), it’s better to just say it in person. You can’t command+Z a sent email after all! (Though you can plan the best time of day to send one.)
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. NEVER fight with your significant other over text. NEVER respond to spam emails either—here’s what happens when you do.
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. Whether it is business or personal, remember at all times that you are a professional. And here are 11 ways the most professional, productive people handle their emails.
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.” However, we understand accidents happen. Never send an accidental email again with this 5-second gmail hack.
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.” Check out these other annoying texting mistakes you didn’t know you were making.
“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. This is the best way to start your email—if you want a reply.
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.” There are some texts that you should delete immediately after receiving—though not break-up texts. It won’t undo the break-up unfortunately.
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.
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. Don’t miss these other 9 things you should never do over text.
Credit card information
You’re trying to buy something from Amazon when you realize—d’oh!—the credit card you wanted to use is in your partner’s wallet. It seems easy enough to send out a text or email asking for the payment info, but that leaves you vulnerable to credit card fraud. Email is one of the riskiest ways to send credit card information, according to creditcards.com, because it’s one of the easiest systems to hack. Your emails also don’t disappear; unless you and the recipient delete them fully, they could still be hiding in your inbox or deleted items. Text messages are more secure, but unless you’re diligent about deleting texts, that information is wide open for prying eyes. To give a credit card number from far away, it’s “better to call and give the credit card number over the phone,” says Wagner.
Especially at work, email seems like the no-brainer way to remind a colleague of a password. But we can’t stress enough how unsecure emails are. Normally, a password is hidden when you type, but an email leaves the text totally clear. It’s stored in different systems while traveling between inboxes, leaving your login information open to hackers. If someone does send your password over email, it’s best to change it immediately, suggests cloud computing company Connectria.
These days, it’s fine to share your big news with most of your social circle on Facebook, but your partner, family, and close friends should hear it directly from you. Ideally, you should tell loved ones face-to-face or over the phone, using a heartfelt email as a last resort. But the one person who should never hear your pregnancy announcement via email is your boss, who will need to start thinking about maternity cover. Instead, pick a quiet time to have a one-on-one with your manager, Georgene Huang, CEO and co-founder of Fairygodboss, tells Parents. “This way you can gauge your boss’ immediate reaction and get a general sense of his attitude,” she says. And make sure your boss doesn’t find out on Facebook first! This is the single best way to sign off emails, according to science. “Pregnantly, Me,” is not it.
Someone on your team just emailed a finished project … with the same mistakes as there always are. Before firing back details about how to improve, consider meeting face-to-face about areas to work on. “I’ve never seen constructive feedback given over email taken well,” Amanda B. Gulino, HR expert and founder of A Better Monday tells GlassDoor. “On the contrary, it has created a whole host of new problems, including lack of trust.” Keep your email response upbeat, then delve into the not-so-fun stuff when the other person can gauge your reaction better. Next, find out which other 11 annoying phrases you should never write in an email.