Yesterday, I had one of those traumatic email days where I felt a bombshell had been dropped in my inbox.  A teammate sent me an email that seemed to discredit some work I’d been doing.  I felt my face heat up out of embarrassment first, then anger as the thought “how does he know anything about this?” crossed my mind.  I stewed and fretted about the email on and off the whole day.

I have a policy of trying to not send emotional emails, so at the end of the day, I felt sufficiently calmed down to send him a reply email back.  I calmly explained my actions, the results of my work, and a myriad of other issues.  Then I pressed the send button and waited nervously for a reply, wondering how he would respond.

Turns out, he was completely cool with what I was doing.  I had misinterpreted a few offhand remarks to be a criticism of my work and let it bother me the whole day.

I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of email: you can’t always interpret a tone or emotion simply by the words you read on the screen.  When we read emails, we often insert our own biases and state of mind.  In the extreme case (like mine), we let these interpretations wildly affect how we deal with work and our co-workers.

So how do you avoid an email bias?  If something seems strange or “off,” talk to your teammate right away.  You will be able to put your mind to rest more easily.  If you can’t get ahold of the other party right away, just forget about it until you can get clarification.  You might just save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress.

-Deborah Fike

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