Hitting Send Could Send You Down in Flames

By Stacy Cornay for the Times-Call
Publish Date: 09/05/2010

Summer's gone, Labor Day is here, and many of us are outside burning hamburgers and charring hot dogs.

I'm inside pondering “flamers”.

“Flamers” are those in-your-face emails fired off in the heat of the moment when emotions are overriding. “Flamers” are road rage moved to the internet. “Flamers” are conceived and written in the heat of the moment. “Flamers” are direct. “Flamers” are pithy. “Flamers” leave no doubt as to where the sender would like the intended recipients to go. And “flamers” have the potential for burning bridges best left intact.

Doing business is a high-stress deal. Workers are being asked to do more with less. Owners are struggling to cope in an ever-more challenging economic environment. Regulations and prohibitions are weighing us down. It's just one thing after another. So when a new irritant is added to the mix, who hasn't felt like saying what we think needs to be said? Who hasn't felt like firing off a “flamer”?

But hitting the “send” key too quickly may send you down in flames.

Emails fired off in the heat of the moment have potential for burning more than the intended recipients. When the “send” key is struck, the sender loses all control. There's no taking words back. In the Email Era, the “flamer” is out there for everyone to read and judge.That came home recently when a number of us received email “flamer” from a respected business person reacting to the actions of a volunteer group.

The email was written in haste and anger. It was emotional. It was based on misconceptions, not facts. It diminished the author's public image.

It's therapeutic to vent. It's good to express emotions. But keep tight control of the ”send” key.

Chill out. Have second and third thoughts. If you're not in a positive frame of mind, don't react to pressures of the moment.

Sure, we all have tempers and tempers flare over transgressions, real or perceived. But “flamers” aren't the answer. I advise clients that if they wouldn't feel comfortable seeing their email printed on the front page of the newspaper, don't send.

When wronged or offended, step back and take a deep breath. Vent by writing a memo to yourself. Put personalities aside. Identify the root cause of your anger. Organize your thoughts. Choose words with care. View the issues from the other side. Maybe all the facts aren't in play.

Maybe emotions are overriding good judgement. Maybe there's more at stake than is on the surface. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, maybe it's better to remain silent and be thought a hot-head than to email a “flamer” and remove all doubt.

Public images are fragile. They rise and fall with tides of the moment. They have lives of their own. So, too, do emails.

A “flamer” email is essentially in the public domain. It is not limited to the recipient.

It can be shared with everyone in the recipient's address book and on down the line. It can be read and judged by pretty much everyone.

One-on-one is a better marketing strategy. Direct communication involving the offended and the offenders has a greater probability for keeping issues in perspective, allowing for constructive inputs and feedbacks, and preserving everyone's professionalism and integrity.

Successful businesses and individuals work hard to market their products and themselves. They invest heavily in projecting and protecting a positive public image. Flames are great for grilling, but “flamers” may barbecue your reputation.

Maintain tight control on the “send” button.


Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.