Snarky Emails Have an Afterlife

15 Mar

So, have you ever received an email from someone near the beginning of your working relationship that left you with more questions than answers? An email with a tone so biting, you had to bring in another person to ready it and confirm your initial feelings about the thing? Well, I’m here to tell you that Snarky Emails Have an Afterlife. What do I mean by this, below I’ll define the “Afterlife” of a snarky email  My hope is that you think twice before clicking “send” on an email with staying power.

Unlike an interpersonal conversation that may produce lingering “static” for a few hours or days, a snarky email can live far beyond the hour or day following its receipt. Importantly, if a discussion ends less than amicably, either of the conversants has the opportunity to apologize–or just “let it blog over.” However, a biting email can stick around for much longer. For example, the recipient of your curt electronic correspondence can keep the email in their “inbox,” reviewing it following each interaction with you to determine how this message fits alongside your overall character. What more frequently happens is this email is forwarded to others, letting them know exactly how passive aggressive the sender is. What can happen is that the receiver might email you back, and decide to “CC” (or “BCC”) someone else to let them see exactly what you said, and how professional their response to you was. So, snarky emails once sent — easily and quickly move beyond your immediate control.

Snarky Emails Have an Afterlife because they tell everyone you are a passive aggressive person with a difficult time managing confrontations. You may be asking yourself,”Can you really tell that from a short email message?” The answer is a resounding “YES!” In my opinion, email facilitates a passive-aggressive confrontation style.

People are always writing things that they would not likely say if standing face-to-face with the given person attempting to communicate the same message Importantly though, that passive-aggression stands out like a neon sign in an email. Also, — and this is for women more so than men I think– you don’t have to worry about the concerned or hurt look on the others person’s face or deal with accusations of being a “b***h. You just click send, and pretend as though your tone was nothing more than ‘business as usual.” Also, most people don’t want to be openly hostile or confrontational, so they will not ask you about the message.

Finally, this variety of email lives on because typically people include their own “added dimension” about you that you don’t have control to shape or alter. By this I mean, some people never forgive the email exchange — primarily because I think — there’s never an apology exchanged. By virtue of it’s passive aggressive nature, snarky emails go undiscussed with hurt feelings undisclosed. Again with the static. This also means that this bad mood, bad day, tough week, etc., gets added to the lexicon of information a person has about you, but it’s meaning is more real, authentic and for you — unflattering.

So, the moral of this story is– taking a deep breath before sending that snarky email. Re-read and maybe ask someone to review your message for tone. Unfortunately for you — that message can’t be taken back and that tone can only live on beyond you.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 15, 2010 in business, communication


Tags: , , , ,

One response to “Snarky Emails Have an Afterlife

  1. Courtney

    March 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    You are so right about this! Proofreading is a must. Great article and great advice to help us stay professional! 🙂


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