3 Scenarios When Communicating Online Is Not Right

Avoid hiding behind your computer or phone in these scenarios

3 Scenarios When Communicating Online Is Not Right
Getty Images/Geber86

There are so many ways we communicate online. There's email, text messaging or messaging through one of the many apps out there that support it. But using email or messaging is not always the most effective way to communicate. 

In fact, in certain circumstances, you should avoid them. Sure, it's easy to hide behind your computer and say what you want to say via the keyboard. But sometimes you need to step out into the world and use your voice.

Here are three situations where it'd be better if you didn't hit send.

Avoid Hitting Send To Resolve Conflict

We've all been part of an email or message string between two parties trying to resolve an issue. Sometimes, you might be one of the two main participants or perhaps you're simply one of many people someone felt compelled to include you.

With every email or message reply the issue escalates. In the end, what was perhaps a relatively small issue has become a much bigger one. This usually results in a face-to-face meeting between the two parties as well as a supervisor or manager to resolve the conflict.

Instead of using email or messaging to resolve conflict either call the person or schedule a face-to-face meeting. If you are the recipient of an email or message from someone else trying to resolve an issue, resist the temptation to respond via email. Pick up the phone or walk into the other person's office and say, "I received your email and thought it might be better if we discussed this situation one-on-one as opposed to by email.

Do you have a few minutes to talk?"

If email is your only option, do not copy other people on it. Doing so escalates the issue. If you're on the receiving end of such an email don't hit "reply all". Simply reply only to the individual who sent the email. If you do "reply all," your reply should say, "I appreciate you bringing this situation to my attention.

I'll call you in just a minute to discuss." This will alert everyone who has been copied that you are taking care of the situation one-on-one.

Avoid Hitting Send When You're Upset

Have you ever been upset about something and fired off a scathing email only to feel immediate regret? Or, perhaps you've been on the receiving end of such an email or message.

After an upsetting situation or interaction, what we need is a cooling down period. Email and messaging does not lend itself to this; it's instantaneous by design. Instead once you've calmed down, call or visit the individual to discuss the situation. If you are on the receiving end of a scathing email, avoid the urge to reply. Give yourself time to calm down and then call the person and ask to discuss face-to-face.

In the future, decide in advance that you will never use email or messaging when you are upset. Make this a non-negotiable pact with yourself.

If you feel the need to write something when you are upset, hand write a message. Don't enter it into email even if you don't intend to send the message. You wouldn't be the first person who accidentally hit the "send" instead of the "save" button.

Avoid Hitting Send to Send Bad News

No one likes to receive bad news and receiving it via email or a message can add salt to the wound.

Have you ever emailed a client to tell them that their order was delayed? Or messaged a friend to let her know you couldn't attend her birthday party? Or how about emailing your boss to alert him that you were not finished with a project and would miss your deadline?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, stop using email or messaging to communicate bad news. Using email or messaging to communicate bad news can send the message that you don't care or that the issue isn't important enough to warrant your personal attention. When you use email or messaging to communicate bad news, you have no way of judging the person's reaction. Most likely, people will be disappointed or upset. If you're not delivering the news in person, their feelings of disappointment may escalate and create an even worse situation.

Lastly, when you use email or messaging in this scenario you appear cowardly. Customers, co-workers, bosses and friends appreciate people who have the courage to communicate bad news in person.

If you're unsure if your message qualifies as bad news ask yourself, "Would I want to receive an email or message with this type of news or would I prefer to have it communicated in person?". Then act accordingly.

While there is no doubt that email or messaging is a quick and efficient means of communication, it's not always an appropriate one. Follow the guidelines above and avoid using email or message when it's inappropriate to do so.