After a client meeting, I am dashing off a follow-up email to a client. The client is unhappy with the progress of negotiations and wants something done. I have mapped out an aggressive strategy to get things moving. One that, while not illegal or unethical, is closer to the line than I usually travel. Before I can finish, I am distracted by an incoming call. When I come back and reread the message, I decide not to send it.
Instead of sending the message, I pick up the phone and call the client. “Look,” I say, “I know you are frustrated and you want me to be aggressive, but I have thought about it and I am not comfortable with where we are headed.” That was a tough call to make, but it was the right call.
Today, our communications travel almost at the speed of light. How many times have we hurriedly written an email and hit ENTER, only to wish we had not because of a typo or tone or something we would have changed with just a little bit of reflection.
As an attorney I am acutely aware that everything you put in writing, on paper or electronically, can come back to haunt you. Never write an email you would not let your grandmother read is sound advice. However, I see messages all over our digital world surely someone regrets are out there, whether it is on social media, on a text or in an email.
Much of this problem can be solved with two words: SLOW DOWN! As a young lawyer I had an attorney in a small neighboring community tell me, “Son, I do not own a fax machine. Makes me practice law too fast.” When I began my law practice, it would routinely take two days to get a letter out of the office. I had to dictate it into a little recorder, my secretary then transcribed it and gave me the draft. I marked it up by hand and returned it to her for a final version I could sign.
While that process seems incredibly inefficient and antiquated today, it did slow things down and make each correspondence more thoughtful and deliberate. When was the last time you hand wrote a letter? Try it. You will be amazed how much more carefully you choose your words. Especially if you write in pen and have to start over if you mess up or change your mind.
Write the angry email if you must. Then step away from it. Go eat lunch or take a walk. Then come back and re-read it before you hit ENTER. It will at least save you some trouble and can definitely save you some legal fees in the long run.