Tech for Troglodytes: five rules to save friendships and avoid email spats

The other day I found myself with a finger hovering above the “send” button. On the screen was an email to a friend containing a link to an article that said … never mind. I’ll make something up. Let’s say, “All People Who Like the Current Leader of Our Country are Certifiably Insane.” That wasn’t the title of the article. It’s just an example. Anyway, there I was, heart pounding, knowing I shouldn’t send this article. A little voice was practically shouting in my head no-no-no-no!

I know lots of people who never participate in email wars. Hats off. I aspire to be like you.

Here’s how it goes for me. A friend sends an email that kindles a desire, a sense of duty, to disagree. Or, I get an itch to forward something. I convince myself the recipient will find the article or essay interesting, but know deep down, it will irritate. It will also do nothing to alter his or her opinion. Usually it’s a him.

My article inspires him/her to write a rebuttal, which sends me scurrying to strengthen my case. I research as painstakingly as the internet allows. Amazingly the results support what I believe. I carefully craft a response and fire it off. This inspires the recipient to provide results of their research, which amazingly supports what they believe.

At this point the exchange is keeping me awake at night. Civility erodes, but backing off is harder than resisting dark chocolate with salted almonds. The other person — not me, never me — may do something mean, like misrepresent my views in overly-simplistic and dismissive terms: “I know you believe that all bankers are evil but …

Eventually we agree we’re not that far apart, or agree to disagree, but bad feelings persist.

To prevent myself from doing this, here are e-mail rules.

    1. If my heart rate is over 150, do not push send.
    2. If send is accidentally pushed when my heart rate is over 150, Unsend.
    3. If an email exchange goes back and forth more than three times, pick up the phone.
    4. For certain correspondents do not read the email. Pick up the phone first, or ignore the email altogether. It’s OK to do this. Our children do it all the time.
    5. Save unsent emails (that research might come in handy someday) in a file marked “Bad Ideas.”

Did I send the above-mentioned e-mail? No, I did not. Yet. No-no-no! 



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