The invention of email has truly made it easier for us to communicate, but as many a politician can attest, it can also make life very complicated. Most of us have had the experience of hitting the “send” button on an ill-advised email, only to feel instant regret and utter helplessness. Perhaps you’ve sent one of those emails to your ex recently—maybe a hateful diatribe for forgetting the kids, or in a momentary lapse of judgment you invited him to come over and “reconnect.” Either way, you know it was a mistake. What do you do about it?
The inherent danger of email—and, for that matter, texting—is when they become permanent expressions of temporary feelings. We often forget there are no take-backs to these communications, and no way to erase them once our feelings change. If your ex feels vindictive, he can use that email as leverage despite the fact that you’ve changed your mind, and no matter how regretful you are. So once you’ve sent one of these doozies, your strategy must change from self-expression to damage control.
Tips for Smoothing Over an Email Mistake
- Owning a mistake can go a long way toward rebuilding goodwill, so start with a heartfelt apology. You may now be at the mercy of your ex, so appeal to her sense of mercy. If your “mistake” email was simply an angry rant over something trivial, you may be able to head off any repercussions at the pass just by taking this step.
- Send another email rescinding or correcting the previous one. This step matters especially if your email could be used for legal leverage. You can’t “un-say” what you said, but a new email with a new date stamp also becomes part of your permanent record of communication.
- Be prepared to compromise, if necessary. If the email weakens your negotiation position, you may have to give up something to hit the reset button. Moreover, an openness to negotiate shows goodwill that may be returned.
- Consult with your attorney. If the email constitutes a more serious mistake, your lawyer may have further ideas as to how to contain the damage.
- Avoid further missteps. Don’t hit the “send” button unless you’re certain you won’t change your mind about anything that’s in the email. Try leaving the “To” line blank while typing the email so you don’t hit “send” by mistake. Better yet, stick the email in your Drafts folder and come back to it once you’ve calmed down.