Before You Send That Angry E-mail

Over the course of my career, I have fired off my share of angry letters and e-mail. However, I cannot think of a single time when these communiques had a positive effect. Usually, they only served to escalate the conflict and alienate the recipient.

A Man Punching His Fist Through His Laptop Computer - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #3237600

Photo courtesy of ©

Several years ago, I wrote a fourteen-page diatribe to a business associate. I skewered him. I was right. He was wrong. And I had the proof.

I laid it out in meticulous detail. I prosecuted my case like a lawyer before the bar. I sent it off with fire in my eyes and a healthy dose of self-satisfaction in my heart. That’ll show him, I thought.

I eagerly waited for his response. After a few weeks, I still hadn’t heard a word. So I re-read the letter and was embarrassed. My response was way out of proportion to the stimulus that provoked it. While I was technically right, I was relationally wrong. I never should have sent the letter. I regretted that I had acted so childishly.

Thankfully, the recipient never did respond to the letter—ever. The next time I saw him (several months later), he embraced me and acted like nothing had ever happened. That day, I got a little taste of grace. I also purposed that I would never send another letter like that. I had dodged a bullet.

In any relationship, you are going to experience times when you feel angry. It happens at home, at work, at church, and in countless other situations.

Next time it happens to you, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Cool down. Put some space between the stimulus and the response. Little offenses look much bigger the closer you are to them. If you let a little time pass, you will see them in their proper context and respond appropriately. This is what makes you different from the animals. You have the choice—the freedom—to chose how you will respond.
  2. Talk it out. I have a lot of close business associates and friends whom I trust. They are committed to saving me from myself. My wife, Gail, is, of course, the best. She helps me regain my perspective and gently asks, “Now, what are you really trying to accomplish here?” This is a great question which helps me consider the bigger picture.
  3. Write a response. If you want to write an angry e-mail, do it. Just don’t send it. I often do this, and it helps me process my feelings. It also helps me get a grip on reality. One word of caution: don’t fill in the “To:” field in the e-mail. I have seen people accidentally hit the “Send” button and regret it. Instead, write it and save it as a draft. After you have cooled down, you can delete it.
  4. Do your homework. Sometimes you think you are right, but upon further investigation, you may discover that you contributed to the problem or aggravated the situation. The question I increasingly like to ask is this: What was it in my leadership that contributed to this outcome? This helps me move from being the victim to being an active participant in finding a solution.
  5. Schedule a meeting. I recently heard John Eldredge make the point that it’s easy to be brave when you are sitting in the safety of your own office. You can hurl digital spears at your adversaries without the risk of a real, live encounter. But confronting people face-to-face—or even over the telephone—is a different matter. That takes real guts. But it can also lead to real solutions. The real question is whether we want to merely make a point or solve the problem.
  6. Admit your mistakes. If you slip up and send off an angry e-mail or letter, then acknowledge it. I will never forget getting an angry e-mail from one of our authors. He lambasted one of our VPs, going into great detail about how he had screwed up an important project. Unfortunately, he unintentionally copied the VP in the e-mail. Oops. Once he realized it, he was mortified. With great humility, he called the VP, admitted that he was way out of line, and then asked his forgiveness. Then he sent a formal apology to each of us. We took the time to rebuild the relationships and, in the process, further endeared himself to us.

As long as we have to deal with people, we are going to be disappointed, get frustrated, and react in anger. But we have to know how to channel these emotions in productive ways. Sending an e-mail or writing a letter is almost never the appropriate or most effective way. If you get angry, resist the temptation to respond in anger.

Question: What experiences have you had with either sending or receiving angry email messages? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Dave Hearn

    I’m usually good with this… for “angry emails” I usually type them and then sleep on it.  In the morning, I either re-write or leave it altogether… 

    I recently sent an email that was written more out of frustration.  I broke my own rule because I thought it was justified and courteous… but I ended up writing an apologetic retraction a day later once I had time to cool off.

    Happens every time.  I should have known…

    • Tim Peters

      Dave – I like your discipline of writing an email and sleeping on the email before sending.  

    • Jim Martin

      Dave, I also appreciate your discipline of writing the e-mail and then sleeping on it.  Very wise!

  • Dawn Michelle King

    I am one of those who sent an angry e-mail mistakenly because I put an e-mail address in the “To:” field. I accidentally sent it when I meant to save as a draft. My father-in-law did not speak to my entire family for a year despite profuse apologies. What I said in my e-mail was true, but it was very harsh and should not have been sent at all.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Great story. And great lesson. I think we often underestimate the power of our words.

    • Tim Peters

      I feel your pain.  I too have learned that hard lesson.  

  • Linda Adams

    Angry emails, no.   However, many years ago when I was in the army, I got really, really angry at the NCO who was in charge of the rear detachment.  I had just returned from Desert Storm, and the rear detachment was made up of soldiers coming back one at a time.  Despite having a lot of people hanging around, I ended up being tagged to do everything.  I don’t often get angry, but after a few months of this, I really started to get angry.  But I was only a private and couldn’t say anything, so I went to my office and just wrote it all day.  I wasn’t going to give it to him — it was simply to vent.  I was called away, so I stuffed it in a drawer.  NCO came down looking for something and went through my drawers (which in hindsight, I should have had a problem with) and found it.  He didn’t confront me, but mentioned to me, real uncomfortable.  I think it did make him realize he’d been piling too much up on me, but I was wishing I’d torn it up when I was finished!

    • Tim Peters

      Wow that must have been a really uncomfortable situation.  

      • Linda Adams

         My first reaction was to think, “Can I go hide?” and to kick myself for not destroying the paper.

  • Lee Glass

    When typing up an angry letter I open up Google Drive, type it in a document (automatically saves) and read it the next day after I have cool down.  IF I feel that the letter is still warranted, I make all the necessary alterations, removing any tone of anger.  This has served me well.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s a good process. I like it!

  • chris vonada

    Love the idea of writing it and not actually sending it. That tells us our true feelings, and if we read it some time later we can reflect and gain perspective. There is really nothing to gain from winning an arguement… it’s our pride that makes us want to win. Your friend was humble and graceful for sure! Whenever I’m involved in a dispute I always try to think about how I can improve myself through this experience… that’s where we can really make a difference in this world :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. Every experience is an opportunity to learn!

    • Michele Cushatt

      You make an excellent point. It’s much better to win a relationship rather than win an argument. If you win the latter, you often lose the former.

      • Stepanieberget

         I love that. “It’s much better to win a relationship rather than win an argument.” Great thought for future frustration.

        • Michele Cushatt

          And I like YOUR quote: “Great thought for future frustration.” Proactive vs. reactive.

      • Anisha

        I too like this point.In fact, Michelle you made into  a thought provoking quotation:  ”
        It’s much better to win a relationship rather than win an argument. If you win the latter, you often lose the former.” 

        • Michele Cushatt

          Thanks, Anisha. I probably should print that one out as a personal reminder. My husband would like to remind me that I said it. :)

  • Joe Abraham

    This is a great read, Michael. I too have had situations where I wanted to throw ‘digital spears’. And I did it a few times. Later I learned that it is wrong to judge someone’s action without trying to find why he/she did so. It is better to be like Jesus than a Pharisee!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. It’s so often better to sit down and have a conversation too. There’s just so much that gets “lost in translation” when we send an e-mail.

      • Joe Abraham

        That’s right. Tone and body language help tremendously in a face-to-face confrontation (for both parties). Even a phone call can’t accomplish that.

        • Brandon Gilliland


  • Chris Lautsbaugh

    I had a leader I worked under share the same advice. It took me a few times to get it, but  I finally got the message. Typing it out and not pressing send really does work!

    • Tim Peters

      It is great to have mentors who are wise.  

  • Joey Espinosa

     When I was on staff, a few of the elders of the church told us this: if you have a bad thing to say, say it in person (or on the phone); if you have a good thing to say, you can say it in an email or note (so the person can save it).

    Though it doesn’t always hold true, it has really marked me in how I relate and lead.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree with that. E-mail is a great instrument for asking questions, providing information, or giving accolades. Its’ never a good vehicle for delivering a negative message. Thanks.

  • Skip Prichard

    Who doesn’t relate to this? And it’s not only email, but the quick tweet, FB update, or even one of these comments.  Good steps to consider before acting rashly.

    • Tim Peters

      Agree I believe as well it applies to any form of digital communication.  

  • Tim Parris

    I have had several run-ins with my own anger over some slight… in the end, as you say, it is never worth getting upset. I was very pleased that a dear friend once asked me to review her letter to her (former) employer. After reading it, I asked if she was happy with the letter and had she gotten the upset out by writing it. When she said yes, my reply was that then the letter had served its purpose and there was no further reason to send it – Did she want to keep the letter or just destroy it?

    My own lesson that I learned beforehand is that the letter writing helps to focus the frustration. For that reason, I now write the frustrated letters into my journal/diary. If I really want to send them, I will have to transcribe them to an actual letter.

  • Eric Dye

    Some of these are great tips for replying to those blog comments that make your blood boil :D

    • Kelly Combs

      I thought the same thing Eric. I have received blog comments that I found to be harsh.

  • Jeff

    I think most of us have been there.  I sure have.   For me, it’s often involved a political subject matter – usually containing some outlandish accusation about someone I support.   I try to cool down, write a reasoned response (reference Snopes), let me wife read it (she’s much calmer than I am), pray about it, and then send.    The results are definitely better than when I fire back right away. 

  • Shannon Milholland

    Oh how I’ve learned the hard way to think before I type. What most often got me wasn’t anger, it was humor. I had to painstakingly learn that pithy little remarks I made in person did not go over without body language and tone.

    Here’s one of my email blunders: A prior employer had been downgraded by their governing ratings agency. I forwarded the announcement to buds still working there with a cute little question implying they no longer worked in my absence. While my friends thought my remark was hilarious, my email was forwarded to former boss.

    He didn’t find the same level of humor in my sarcasm. He actually called me out physically on the phone to tell me how disappointed he was. Think before you type, Shannon.

    • Michele Cushatt

      Ouch. I’ve learned a few of those (painful) lessons myself. Great point about written humor/sarcasm … and good reminder that email messages to be forwarded! I try to remind myself, before pressing “send,” that ANYTHING I write can be forwarded and shared.

  • Steve Tessler

    I was in charge of a Comand Picnic.  I ordered what I thought was the correct amount of food.  Well needless to say the picnic was a huge success and more people than food arrived. What I did wrong was go to my office the next day and write a long e-mail to everyone at my command and basically told them that too many people took to much food.  Being new to that job I should have had measures in place to prevent that from happening.  I did learn from my mistake and when I planned the Christmas it was a hit!!!  

  • Slittlefield

    Michael, great and important post. I have often told those who work with me that email is great for communication, but lousy for emotional content. Several pastors on my staff (and I) recently received scathing emails from an angry parishioner. Whenever we responded, however, she would fire off another email, each one angrier than the last. We also attempted one on one meetings, but she was unwilling. Finally, our council and I instructed everyone to cease and desist. Once we did, the emails stopped. Anger just seems angrier in written format.

    • Sharon Rose Gibson

      I can relate to this. There have been situations I’ve had to simply back away from trying to work things out because replying kept it going and even made it worse. This proverb helped to guide me, “Without wood a fire goes out;” Proverbs 26:20

  • Leslie Allebach

    I have written more letters than I can count – in the shower.  I stew and fuss and write away on the imaginary tablet in my head. And then I move on with my day.  Many years ago, my dad had a situation at church in which he chose to write an angry letter directed towards the leadership. He, too, had every right to be angry but just this past weekend he made the comment that if he had to do over, he would never have sent that letter. 

    I believe that you are absolutely correct – anger never leads to a positive response.  It reminds me of Solomon’s wise words in Proverbs 15:1: A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.

    • Michele Cushatt

       I write on the imaginary tablet in my head, too. :)

  • Calum Henderson

    Love it! Great advice Michael.

    Sometimes I have really wanted to send an angry email but this is a good reminder to write it but not send it.

    Really enjoying your content after subscribing to your blog and podcast after reading Platform. Thanks!

  • Kelly Combs

    You were technically right, but relationally wrong…and he chose to be 
    be wrong with you. 

    When you send something to someone in writing, they have a chance to read and re-read, and this creates new angst every time.  And because email doesn’t have body language, or tone, I think it often leads to more problems. I prefer to have my disputes face to face. I don’t think I’ve ever sent a truly angry email, nor have I received one. But when I receive an email with a concern, I try to say, “Let’s get together to discuss.”

    • Michele Cushatt

      A written disagreement carries far more sting than a face-to-face email, primarily because it can be read again and again, as you mentioned. Makes me think of a hurtful email I received a while back from a family member. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I still feel the sting simply because it was in written form and I read it (received it, felt it) more than once.

  • annepeterson

    I recently received a disgruntled email requiring a response. I had to restrain my flesh from reacting to some digs I saw in there, so I gave my feelings a time out and put the email away.  The next day I drafted my response and had someone I trust go over it with me. Sometimes I can tuck attitude between my words. We are at a disadvantage with emails. The recipient doesn’t hear our tone of voice, doesn’t see our facial expressions. So we have to work harder at choosing the right words that create those soft answers; words dipped in grace. I’m happy to say that extending grace was the answer. Once again, God was right. 

    • United Way

      You make a good point about tucking attitude between words, whether in print or in person. Thanks for articulating this!

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  • Nikole Hahn

    It took me a while to get here, but I now set the email that makes me angry aside and pray about it. Then, I re-read it later and respond. If I am in the right, but they are not listening, there seems to be little point in making my case. Sometimes, I even ask someone else to help me write the response. I’m the blunt and tactless type at times and if I am angry enough my words can come out very straight forward so to control the monster I step away. Also, I try to give the benefit of the doubt where possible. 

    • Jeremy Statton

      I like your point about listening. The irony of getting people to listen to us is that we have to listen to them first. When we are angry, we seldom hear enough.

  • Ltraylor

    A professor in business communication advised me (it has provem good) to limit email communication to information items only.

  • Cyberquill

    In addition to drying out and paralyzing my vocal cords, anger tends to knock out the language center in my brain, i.e., it incapacitates my ability to put sentences together. This happens in speaking—since I can’t talk when I’m mad, I never have any heated arguments (instead, I just quietly implode)—as well as in writing. 

    I’m not the fastest writer to begin with, not even in a state of blissful relaxation,  but anger causes my writing to slow to a virtual crawl. Therefore, it is very difficult for me to maintain the “fire in my eyes” for as long as it would take me to compose an angry paragraph, let alone a whole letter, at least one that sounds borderline literate—and no matter how angry I might be, vanity precludes me from dispatching incoherent chunks of verbiage that sound as if typed up by a monkey whacked over the head with a cast-iron skillet.

  • Paul J Mahler

    When I have typed angry emails and shared them with my wife she has often asked ‘What are you trying to accomplish?’ and saved me from a lot of pain and embarrassment. My old Pastor would ask me, ‘What good can possibly come from this?’ Another question that would both strike at the heart of my motives and help me to honestly assess the impact on the future relationship.

    Email can be dangerous because it is one dimensional and beyond BOLDPRINT or other tools tone can easily be misconstrued. The Phone is better but we still don’t see facial expressions or gestures. A short face to face may take time to arrange but in the long run can save us sometimes from wasted mental, emotional, and physical energy.

    • Jeremy Statton

      I like that your wife is such a helpful filter for you.

      • Michele Cushatt

        For me it’s my husband. He is much more calm and rational than I am. And I’ve become more so simply because I’m with him! Although I still speak/write without thinking at times, I’m certain having him in my life has saved me countless blunders.

  • Chris Jeub

    My three rules on angry emails:

    1) Never send angry emails.
    2) When you break Rule #1, make sure the email is short. Never long. (14 pages, Michael? Youch.)
    3) When you break Rule #2, bake yourself a big ‘ole pan of humble pie. You will eat it.

  • Cherithompson

    Yeah–my draft folder is full of  “angry emails”. Fortunately, there were never sent :)

  • Jeremy Statton

    14 pages? Wow. I am grateful for people like your associate who are able to show grace even when we don’t deserve it.

  • A. R. Dale Jones

    I would suggest typing the angry e-mail in your word processor so as not to make the mistake of accidentally sending it to the intended recipient. Great post Michael!

    • Jeremy Statton

      I agree Dale. Keeping it in as a draft makes me nervous.

  • Bill

    My experience was in almost sending scathing e-mail. I wrote a 2-page diatribe of anger. Fortunately, I was in a self-reflection process and after a 5 minute break, reviewed the e-mail removing the parts that were really about me and my needs. After I  removed “my part” from this note initially blasting the quality and intent of the service provided, all that was left was “Hello” and “Sincerely” as good bye.
    I have found my anger has more to do with me than others.  All that other people do is provide  the mirror showing me what I have been denying about myself. My anger is usually a reaction to the fear of having to face what I have been hiding. What reduces my sending of angry e-mails is that they give away too much insight into the real me. 

  • Steve Borek

    I’ve received two long scathing emails in my life. In each instance, I immediately surmised this wasn’t about me, it was about them. In each case it was about they protecting their turf. 

    The first thing I did was pick up the phone to have a convo. (tip #2) They delayed our meeting. Why? They wanted to hide behind their email and not confront the truth.

    Once we had our discussion, they didn’t have a leg to stand on. In essence, I burst their bubble. These types of individuals love to write diatribes yet have nothing to back it up.

    If you disagree with someone, talk it out. Don’t write an email that will make you look foolish.

  • Hope Squires

    I’m still reeling from an angry email a close friend sent me two weeks ago. Her words may have been meant to wound, but instead, I feel as if they killed the friendship. I hope that, after some time has passed, I’ll be able to extend grace to her, just as your friend/colleague did. Thank you for the steps you’ve given here. It’s so easy to react in blind anger but not always as easy to glue the pieces of a relationship back together.

    • Heather C Button

       I know that feeling. It was even worse when it came in chat format. I find I’m censoring myself even more. Because everything gets so abbreviated, no one really gets the sense of any words. In the end, I found out her scathing comments had to do with her personal life falling apart. But she needed to vent, and I bore the blunt.

  • Stephen Goode

    Well written practical appilication of a grounded biblical principle!

  • Nate Livesay

    Wish I had read this several years ago… Same goes for letters of resignation.  Being “correct” doesn’t make you right and the damage goes much further than you think.

  • Sam Rozolem

    Thank you for sharing this article, it came just in time to prevent me from writing an angry response to someone.  

  • Swrjr007

    I lost my job of 15 years after accidentally sending an angry email.  We were on our way out anyway, but it caused problems and led to other issues that have been difficult to overcome.

  • Julie Sunne

    Great advice once again, Michael! Thankfully, I’ve never received a scathing email, and I am much too reserved with my opinions and how I present them to send an angry one (so far, anyway). I have dealt with some controversial issues, but I make sure my words and thoughts are embedded in grace.

  • Randy

    One of the best things I ever learned about email was that Outlook and Gmail (possibly others) have a feature that delays sending your email by up to several minutes (or more) to enable you to retrieve a hasty or unintended reply before it goes out.

  • Rob

    Finding someone to talk it out with has always worked best for me. An objective third party can help you see the situation from a different perspective. My wife has often pointed out things that have made me feel silly for my overreaction. She has saved me from further embarasment many times.

    • Michele Cushatt

      True. Sometimes when talking it over with my husband or a friend, they don’t have to say a word. I can hear how I’m making something major out of something minor.

  • saieva

    E-mail or email? Is it time to drop the hyphen?


    Salvatore Saieva

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is merely a style issue. There is no common usage yet. I assume that the hyphen will eventually disappear.

      • Smhznrdr

        The AP styleguide has recently changed from e-mail to email.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Unfortunately, the Chicago Manual of Style (which most book publishers use) is still e-mail, as is the New York Times.

  • Itsorchid2

    I am a new follower of yours and I have to tell you I love reading your posts that are so real and transparent. I too have been through some of the same things or done some of the same things in business and life. Until I grew deeper with my relastionship in Christ I didn’t really think those mistakes or bad judgements would help me to help others but they did. It’s so cool how God always uses everything for the good. I love to see what you write about each day I know they are true life experiences.

  • Erica McNeal

    This is great Mike. I am learning to only send emails dealing with conflict when I need to track the conversation for business purposes. In fact, I did that this morning – before reading this post. Of course, I had to re-read the letter, and I think I’m good! lol!

    Otherwise, I pick up the phone and call the person there is discord with. So often, the tone of an email can be read very differently than the author’s intention. Even a gracious email dealing with conflict, can place someone in a defensive position if read the wrong way.

  • TNeal

    As an extrovert, I’m more likely to respond immediately and verbally when angered but wait, as you suggest, before I respond by letter or email. Outside of a letter written then emailed to my wife, I cannot think of writing a response in anger. I remember getting a “you’re to blame for all my problems” letter from a woman who served in Russia when I was field director for our region (living in country). The letter came when we were both in the U. S. I ranted and railed about the woman’s comments to my wife but responded with a simple “I think you’re making a judgment with too little information.”

    I certainly appreciate your wise counsel on how to respond to an offense. Those steps would be helpful whether a response is written or spoken.

  • Denise

    When I react in anger, I have learned to use a technique that works for other situations as well. 

    I ask myself if, on a scale of 1-10, is my anger over a 4?  If so, I need to figure out the real reason for my anger.  If it’s over a 4, then I’m overreacting and need to figure out why. 

    This has helped stop me numerous times from making the situation worse. With email, I have the benefit of time and space to process before responding.

    I have also used Word to type the draft -as insurance I don’t accidently send it too soon!

    • Michele Cushatt

      Great technique. Anger is a secondary emotion, and getting to what’s behind it is usually key.

  • DeWayne Hamby

    Thank you! This is such an insightful post. I have said in recent years that if you really want to resolve a problem, don’t use email, because we all have a tendency to read things into the words that are said. When two people sit down at a table together, it’s a lot harder to ignore or destroy the other one. The digital world leaves us cold and we need to reminded we are actually dealing with our fellow brothers and sisters. 

  • Aimeemcbroom

    When I was taking a Habitudes Class at church, Tim Elmore taught a lesson about lightning rods, and how they deflect the lightning from doing damage to a building.  The lesson was about delfecting anger before it has a chance to do damage to a relationship.  Since then, I use my journal to deflect my anger.  There have been many times when I’ve just started writing about something that has made me mad.  This produces two results: 1) by the time I get done, I’ve cooled down and find that I’m not as angry and 2) It opens my eyes to how ridiculous and petty a lot of my anger is! And no  one’s feelings got hurt in the process! :)

  • John Richardson

    I don’t like email for heated conversations. It’s too easy to be misconstrued. Preferably, I like  face to face discussions. Most problems can be worked out in a matter of minutes this way. If I can’t meet, then the phone is my second choice. E-mail doesn’t allow me to read the other person, and often leads to unnecessary pain and anguish.

  • Terri_brown

    Once at a job I had several years ago I was the recipient of an angry email.  I had answered a question to a business we work with according to the policies that we follow.  However, a division director decided that in answering this question that I was now writing policy for the division.  He emailed my division director, my department supervisor, and the president of the company, detailing what I had done and how egregious it was.  However, in his email he described some policy in error and attributed some actions to me that I had never taken.   Fortunately, my division/department bosses knew of the author’s general take on things and knew I hadn’t actually done anything wrong, except to state policy of another department.

    What I took away from this experience is that a person should make sure that what he says is actually the truth.  This person has moved on, and I did not cry the day he left. 

  • Jstewart

    Emails are tricky. Angry / Passive Aggressive emails are the worst and you’re right, nothing positive ever comes from this. They can cause such a negative vibe in the workplace. Also, you never know how people will read an email so think and edit before you hit send…

  • Jennifer Major

    Thankfully, *I* have never done anything wrong.
    I think I’ve eaten sand on more than one occasion, but one of the side effects of thyroid meds is memory loss.  :)

    I once had a former friend send me a very nasty letter regarding my sin level, cuz, like, apparently there’s a scale now. She “hit  reply all” and went on and on and yadda yadda yadda…to my entire, that’s ENTIRE Christmas e-letter list. My dad’s retired cousin in Australia even replied to her and told her off. Her attempt at shredding me backfired on an international level. 

  • Wes McAdams

    Love this post, Michael! This has been something that’s been on my mind all week! I was just thinking about Proverbs 29:11, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (NKJV).

    • Michele Cushatt

      That verse stomps on my toes every time I read it. Thanks. I think. ;)

  • Eshantis

    One of the ways I buffer the process is to write it out by hand first. Something about that pen-to-paper contact allows the emotion to drain out.  With the next few steps (typing it out in a doc, letting it “cool,” and then editing before posting into the email) emotions are further removed to promote the objectivity of what needs to be said.

    • Jim Martin

      Eshantis, I have never thought of first writing such a letter by hand.  Thank you for the suggestion.

      • Eshantis

        You’re welcome. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me :)

  • Perry Perrett

    Personally, I write the email in a Word document, let it
    rest for at least 24 hours, then if I feel I need to address the issue, I seek
    out a face to face sit-down with the other person(s).  If I can’t speak face to face, then I make a
    phone call. I don’t put something into writing that I would not publish in the
    local paper (or blog). Twenty years in ministry taught me to be careful what I
    give to someone in writing. Our age of technology has given us the ability to
    remove the personal relationship.

  • Lincoln Parks

    I wish I would have seen this post last year sometime. Boy, its too late now. I’ve since been blacklisted by the person I blasted out. Thanks for sharing and directing us.

  • Amanda Padgett

    You are so, so right!! I made the same mistake you made when I was in early 20’s and unfortunately they did receive it. I have learned to cool down and wait a day or two before handling any possibly volatile issues via email.

    I so love about everything you write and have shared your blog with so many people. Thank you, Michael, for doing what you do!!

  • Perry

    wonder what it is that makes us write angry emails, and if becoming the kind of person who isnt inclined to to do so is possible.

  • Susan McHugh

    Another suggestion is to deal with small issues as they arise, and not let things fester to the point where runaway emotions may do more harm than good. 

  • Cheri Gregory

    Over the last three years, I’ve learned that digital communication is not the route to take when I need to communicate something important and potentially “touchy” with my daughter. We got into so many misunderstandings over text messages and e-mails because we were reading in the other’s tone of voice and filling in meanings that we couldn’t confirm. 

    We now halt digital communication that starts either of our hackles rising and schedule a Skype “date” (or wait ’til she’s home for a visit.) We need to hear each other’s voices, watch each other’s faces, and use gestures and body language as part of our communication. Committing to f-2-f for the “tough stuff” has saved us a ton of unnecessary drama and its resulting damage control!

  • Matt McWilliams

    I follow Tim Sanders advice. No bad news over email.

    Never, ever, ever send an angry email.

    One thing I learned with a former company. We had a few people who just loved to spout off angry emails (and copy others…another no-no).  They acted so childish.

    I simply ignored that email. Pretended it did not exist. Thus, the next email from me to them was on a different topic and was 100% professional and nice…usually even nicer than normal.

    The unintended consequence of this was sometimes initially it really ticked them off. They intended to light a fire in me, but it went nowhere. Then they usually got called out by someone else higher than me. I looked great and they really softened up.

    The other result was they apologized profusely and I noticed became more of a helper afterwards. It was almost as if I could say “I accept, and by the way, can you do this newsletter for me this afternoon, I am slammed.” 

    If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,    and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

  • Dave Anderson

    Face to face confrontation is the best policy.  Even after receiving an angry email it is best to ask for a meeting.  To me an angry email is a great way to be sure you get to say what you want to say without being challenged.  That is cowardice.

    Be brave.  Ask for a face to face meeting and resolve the issue.

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  • Joe D

    I am very grateful for these nuggets of wisdom and challenge each day, thank you!

    I enjoyed the point of how this person apparently extended grace…what a great model.

    Michael, you stated “I dodged a bullet that day.” I assume, based on the constant integrity and humilty I read in your posts, that you discussed with him your failure to communicate correctly.

    I bring this up because I too have failed in this area, and one of the most difficult of these confrontations ended in a very good yet humbling experience that brought the two of us to an exponentially greater relationship that continues to grow today.

    Again, not assuming you dodged the conflict in this story, but there is a lesson for me in that humbly pushing into the conflict that I created for the purpose of owning my mistake, however painful, can result in great relationship fruit!

    I’m curious how this particular relationship in your story has developed after this incident?

  • R2boise

    I wrote an angry email once complete with the “fire from my eyes”.  I then called a third party not related to the situation and read it aloud to him.  He asked if I really wanted to send it, but by then I had already realized I should not.  I deleted it.

    • Jim Martin

      R2boise, I have written letters like this and read them to my wife.  I am always glad I did this before sending such a note.

  • Adam Rico

    I was once corrected by someone older and more mature than me for something I said. I took that opportunity to practice humility and thank him for correcting me or I went home and hammered out a scathing email to him to give him a piece of my mind. It was one of those two, I can’t quite remember. ;)

    Actually, after writing the email I never sent it. (an unusual display of wisdom for that season of my life) Then as I reread the email I realized how wrong I really was. Looking back on it now, I can see just how gracious that person was in how they communicated my error to me. 

    So I can definitely testify to the effectiveness of a cooling off period before sending angry emails.

    • pc

      thank God i read this. made me think i matured even just a little by not sending an angry email made out of frustration. 

  • Wayne Joubert

    …for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  James 1:20

    Like so many truths in Scripture, I’ve learned this one the hard way. In fact, I’ve found that the more angry one gets, the less accurate his or her assessment of the situation becomes. I am grateful that most of time, this verse now pops up when I am ready to fire off a letter…but it took practice and some very humbling experiences for it to sink in.

  • Adam Faughn

    I have often been frustrated and sent an email to either no one (just addressed to no one) or even to myself! I have found that, when I read what was going through my mind in anger, I am glad that I was the only one who read those words. It has helped me learn to be more calm when I must communicate something that really is “heated.”

  • Dana Pittman

    Yes, to both. As a result I have very clear “rules” on how I am to respond. These types of exchanges can go downhill fast! 

  • Christopher Long

    Brilliant advice indeed! Thanks.

  • Pmpope68

    On any important e-mails, regardless of whether I’m angry or not, I don’t fill in the To: field until after I’ve proofread my message for grammar, spelling, facts, wording, inclusion of all the right detail, etc.  It also gives me a chance to think about who else I might want to include on e-mail.  

  • Cabinart

    I’ve heard angry letters and emails referred to as “nasty-grams”. Indeed!
    Love the wisdom of positives via email, negatives in person.

    Been the recipient of angry emails. Kind of stabs me in the heart, and certainly makes it difficult to see the sender in person. It takes strength to not respond in kind, and courage to pick up the phone.

    I’m thankful I could learn by being the recipient and not the sender!

  • Charles Specht

    I think almost everyone has done this, more often than they even realize it.


    See, doesn’t that come across as angry, even when I’m so sweet?  LOL.

  • Jennifer J Woodward

    As someone who, unfortunately, cries when she is angry I have often taken the written way out. As justified as I can feel in my anger I know that I won’t get more than a few sentences out before I start bawling…. so I learned to write tactful, direct letters / emails and follow up in person if necessary after the emotion as been removed.
    However, I have learned in recent years that I rarely, if ever, have cause to be truly angry. I believe most people are doing the best they can at that moment so I try to exchange anger for compassion and see how we can work it out together… saves the tears and the letters.  Still a work in progress… But it’s where I’m trying to keep my thoughts.

  • Shannon W.

    I’ve been twisted in knots since yesterday afternoon as I discovered that a colleague and someone I consider a friend did something that, in my mind, is disrespectful and underhanded. I waver between sending the angry email – that would of course include a litany of previous offenses I’ve never brought up, and giving it the weekend so I can see a way to use this to strengthen our relationship. I will choose the latter. Thank you for this post – I stumbled up on it at precisely the right time. 

  • DS

    Wow.  Entertaining post and comments.

    When it doubt – delete it out.   Listen to the voice in your head.  Its just not worth the risk to me.  If I could just master my mouth the same way – that would be great!

    Reminds me of a Building Champions telecon I listened to.  Email is almost permanent.

  • KeithFerrin

    My rule for email: Never process ANY difficult emotional situations over email. (anger, frustration, confusion, etc.) When the emotion is anything but fully positive, the other person – and you – almost always assumes the worst…not the best. Email is for INFORMATION and ENCOURAGEMENT.

    Interestingly, just yesterday a friend who knows my position on this emailed me asking for prayer because she had received an angry email and was heading into a meeting with the person to clear the air. Fortunately, an apology was offered and relationship was restored.

    I will be forwarding her a link to this post!

    • Jim Martin

      Keith, your rule is a good one.  Though I have never worded it as clearly as you, I basically follow the same rule.  When the emotion is intense and highly charged, it is too easy to misinterpret one’s intent.

  • Daren Sirbough

    I’ve been close to sending an angry email a couple of times. I followed these steps and it ended up being a much better outcome!

  • kimanzi constable

    I’ve never had a good experience with angry letters or angry emails, there’s already too much of this in the world today. I will definitely use these points next time I feel angry! Great post Michael.

  • ACU Press

    When I write an email in the midst of an emotionally charged situation, I usually write exactly what I want to say in a Word document, that way there is no risk of accidentally hitting “send”. And I agree with Dave about sleeping on it in order to return to them with a clearer head. When I do feel that I’m in a better place to send an actual response, I can then rewrite the letter and copy/paste it into an email.

    Getting a colleague to read important emails to check for tone usually helps, too.

  • Krista OgburnFrancis

    When I get an especially upsetting email, I’ve found it helpful to go out for a short walk or take my lunch break before responding. 

    I also like your advice to talk rather than respond by email. I once sent an email that was not angry and was intended to be very neutral. However, when I got a response, it was clear she had taken it in a very different light and she was feeling hurt and defensive. Rather than trying to fix it in yet another email, I immediately went to talk with her and we cleared it all up with no hard feelings.

    • Jim Martin

      Krista, I also liked Michael’s advice suggesting that one talk to the other person rather than respond by e-mail.  I first became aware of the importance of this a number of years ago when I was reading an intense e-mail exchange between six or seven people.  Several were writing with an edge and sarcasm that I had never hear in their conversations.  I was convinced they would never talked that way to one another in person.

  • Joe Lalonde

    I haven’t had much trouble with it. Many times I’ll write an email or create a response only to realize it’s not appropriate. That I need to either edit it significantly or not send it at all. When that happens, it goes into the trash.

  • Chriscoussens

    I often write angry emails… before I realize they are angry. There are a lot of degrees of anger, adn even a righteous dispute can really be an angry email. I have realized how to spot them however. First, if they are long and not analytical, they are pretty much always angry. People over-explain when they are angry. They want to justify themselves. Once I realize I’ve been writing angry, I start to edit the item. I try to understand their perspective and the long term implications of the email. I edit and edit and usually end up picking up the phone.

    Relationships are simply too valuable to risk to misinterpretations. There are vast variations of degree in tone that are expressed in any argument and all of it is lost in email. To make matters worse people seem to attach the worst possible tone to emails.

    In the reverse, I instruct my teams to read every email assuming that the writer has the best possible intentions towards you and the company. This seems to mitigate some of the tonal missunderstandings and impact of an angry email.

    • John Tiller

      “Relationships are simply too valuable to risk misinterpretations.”   I love that Chris!  

  • rabbimoffic

    I read that Abraham Lincoln used to write a letter to person who angered him, seal the envelope and place it i his desk, never to be send or read again. 

  • Brandon Gilliland

    Hey Michael! Great post! You offered some great suggestions. I really appreciate you sharing your personal experience as well.

    By the way, in one of your sentences, you had the same word repeated: “You can hurl digital spears at your adversaries without without the risk of a real, live encounter”

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for catching that. I have fixed it. Thanks.

  • Rosalynd Divinity

    Powerful message and timely as email etiquette is vital.  Often meaning is lost in translation.  Thought I was the only one writing out my angry thoughts and giving them a “cool” off period.  Thanks for posting.

    • Jim Martin

      Rosalynd, it is good to hear that others do this as well, isn’t it?  I find it helpful to hear what others do when they are angry and are tempted to fire off an angry letter.

  • Terry Hadaway

    The way I’ve got it figured, the less written ammunition I provide, the less likely I am to be the mole in a game of corporate whack-a-mole. 

    • John Tiller

      True, Terry.  Whenever sending something in writing, we must take time to think if there is anyone who we would not want to see the content and the issues that might create.  If the risk outweighs the reward, it’s better to either not send it, change our words, or use verbal communication.

  • Douglas Pals

    I can soooo appreciate this post. I suppose we all can in some way. Like you, I learned this lesson the scary way quite some time ago.

    I’ll likely get the story wrong, but I think it was Ab Lincoln that had an associate write a letter in response to an issue and then bring it to him for review. After reading it, Lincoln said something like – “there, now go write the letter we are going to send.” 

    In affect he was helping his associate vent, and create distance and gain some persecutive on the situation.

    All good advice.

    Really enjoyed Platform. It reminded me that I am a writer first and a better me when I take the time to write. Just getting started with my Platform. Thanks for the encouragement.


    • Jim Martin

      Douglas, great story about Lincoln.  Thanks!

  • Steven Tessler

    A lot of awesome comments!!  Love this site and what it’s doing!!

    • John Tiller

      Ditto, Steven!

  • Steve Martin

    If only I had read this yesterday.

  • Paul J Mahler

    So today one of our employees who I supervise made some disrespectful comments and stormed out of the office.  I was very tempted to start writing an email… but then thought about this post and my previous comment!  What divine timing.  I talked to my wife already and when I really have calmed down and move past my judgmental and self-righteous attitudes, I will start to process what role I played and where I may have made mistakes as a leader.  So grateful for this post today.  Thank you!

    • John Tiller

      Wow, Paul!  That took courage.  Nice job!

  • Ngina Otiende

    I set up a new blog this week. I
    At some point, the blog “broke”, fell apart when my Host migrated some information from the old website to the new. I thought all my work had gone down the drain (not helped by the fact that i really did not understand everything i was doing…so i did not know how to re-do it if it broke)I panicked!And shot off two mails to my hosting provider. They were more panicky than stern but after he graciously fixed everything within minutes, i was rather ashamed. I wasn’t rude or anything, but am sure my panic shone as bright as the noonday sun :(I agree with you little things loom larger the more you look at them

    • Jim Martin

      Ngina, I can relate to this experience.  I can recall times when I panicked and sent an e-mail.  The notes reflected my panic.  I also remember then getting some clarity and realizing that my panic was premature.

  • Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    I don’t type an email and save it for the next day. What I do is hold off on writing anything until the next day. If I still have something to write about, then maybe I really do need to talk to them. If not, I know it was petty and I can let it go.

  • Pilar Arsenec

    This post is spot on. Thank you.

  • Shilpa

    I still have a hard time with this stuff. Very recently I was stuck in a battle of angry emails. It just went on and on. I was right and the other party was wrong but instead of accusing the recepient I just politely made my point and what I got in return were harsh comments. I just forced myself to ignore these mails and never responded back. Believe me it was not easy(specially when you know the other person is wrong). And this left me emotionally weak for some days. My ego was hurt. I now realise that probably that was for best.

  • katina Vaselopulos

    Michael this is another great post!  Great advise that we should really take to heart.

    Over a year ago, one of my nieces that I loved like a daughter sent me a really angry letter on Facebook.  Everything she accused me for was not true at all and even now I don’t know where this came from. Hurt and angry, I  wrote a long letter to her, defending myself and accusing her of malice. I cried a lot that night. I cried and prayed to God not to let me send that reply.  After hours of staring my screen with my finger  ready to hit the button, I calmed down, deleted what I had written, and went to bed, thanking God that He stopped me.  When I saw her a few months later, she acted like nothing had happened and was the sweet person I always knew. Maybe she had realized by then the mistake she had made and was even grateful for my… silence. I did not say anything either, but cnnot help  sometimes still feeling the hurt.

  • Dan Erickson

    I can honestly say that I have never sent an “angry” email: concerned, a little upset, maybe.  I am always critical about my own messages, not overcritical, but I’m careful to read my emails (especially when I’m upset) before I hit that send button.  That said, I have made a couple of blunders and unhonorable mentions.  I once embarrassed a colleague by mentioning a fact I shouldn’t have shared.

    What I’ve learned over the years is that there are always ways to make your messages constructive and diplomatic even if your raving mad.    

  • armansheffey

    Where was this post a couple of months ago? I learned the hard way, but the pointers in this really wouldve helped. Thanks for the post!!

  • Dan

    I discovered your blog several months ago but seldom have time to visit it.  I took a look tonight for the first time in many weeks.  Talk about perfect timing!  Must be a “God Thing.”

    I have been very angry with a co-worker for many days and I crafted a carefully worded (although still too emotional) email today to my brand new boss to warn him in advance of our very strained relationship that is hurting morale and productivity in my unit.  Fortunately, I too have learned the lesson of waiting at least 24 hours before sending, and I usually heavily edit, if not delete, such emails later.  While I still feel justified in my anger, your post (and all these comments) has me re-thinking my strategy.  I should probably just continue to attempt working through this situation and not hang the dirty laundry in front of the boss on his first day!

    Thanks for a great post!

  • Kapil Sopory

    You’re right. I particularly avoid harshness in emails. It is better to use verbal mode of communication for expressing “heat” or, if you need to maintain a record, to send a letter marked ” Private and Confidential” ensuring that it reaches the addressee only and the contents are not seen by anyone else. Even then, while calling a spade a spade is alright, this can be couched in a tactfully worded language which conveys but mellows down the hurt.
    Let’s treat every one humanly. No one faults deliberately every time and we should be able to smell the difference and act accordingly.
    Lord Jesus pardoned even the oppressors!
    Kapil Sopory

  • Richard Thomaz

    The best way I’ve heard this put is:
    Reflect and Respond don’t React and Regret

  • karin hurt

    I have never regretted picking up the phone instead of sending the email.

  • Joshua

    Great topic for discussion. One thing i do is send the angry email…to myself. That way I get a taste of how it comes across and feels. I wait a day or so after sending it to open and read it. This has really helped me get things off my chest without dumping it on others.

  • Steve Curran

    Great process for dealing with anger in the workplace.  But I think the most insightful part of this post for me is the reaction of your colleague to your angry letter.  Refusing to respond and escalate a situation is an awesome approach to building peace and collegiality in the workplace.  Choosing to extend grace to our coworkers is definitely something I can take and chew on.  Thanks.

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  • John Harvey

    I agree with this, which is why I tend to use angry FB status updates instead of angry emails. :)

  • Susan

    I don’t think I’d ever had an angry email conversation till yesterday.  Providential timing!  I was  frustrated by my friend’s repeated mistranslations of what I was saying.  She seemed to keep twisting my words into something negative when my intent was to be supportive and positive.  Every time I corrected her, thinking it would defuse things it only got worse.  Finally my frustration level was more than I could stand and I became angered at the repeated shock of her replies.  At the end of that final email I said, “This isn’t going to be resolved now unless we talk on the phone.”  She called.  What a difference that made!  We talked for about five minutes, in which time we achieved peaceful, caring understanding of one another.  Being able to hear tone of voice changed everything.  I told her I was going to delete the entire email conversation.  After we hung up I thought of how much time was wasted trying to reach mutual understanding through repeated emails and how quickly that was achieved by phone.  As one psychologist told me,  “Email-only is no way to carry on a friendship.”
    Sometimes words alone can appear harsh in such a situation.  We read in tone without even realizing it.  I think there have been a number of times when I would have been better off waiting a day and rereading an email before sending.
    Thanks for the good word!

  • Kent Julian

    If I’m about to explode, I usually go for a run. For one, I love running. Two, it calms me down and allows stress to phase out of my body. Three, I think best while running.

  • Denette

    Even what a writer considers a neutral email may be read in an angry “voice” by its receiver. Tone can be difficult to read. As a teacher who assigns grades to children, I have received my share of angry emails. However, I believe many emails are simply desiring information, but the attitudes are hard to interpret.  Try reading a statement like, “I don’t get why Elle failed your science test; we studied for three days,” in confused, disappointed, frustrated, or angry tones. It could be any of the above.  I try to read with grace, but I also give this example to parents at the beginning of each school year. I  encourage them to call or come see me about issues so we can talk them over, and I commit to do the same.

  • steven sarff

    I have not so much experience with ‘sending’ an angry email but “wanting” to is another matter. Writing a blog post about it is also a distinct possibility in today’s world. Your post is right on in relation to the step about cooling down. 
    I need more than two hands to count the times I was positive that I was right, justified, and innocent only to find out that I was not. I did not intend to be “guilty” but when the light of truth was shined on the situation, there was my blame to be seen by all.  (pass the fork please, I have humble pie to eat)

    Couldn’t agree more and it is even true when you ARE right!

  • Psychofan

    This is really good advice….Thanks!

  • Farouk

    i can relate to that picture
    i remember that my tone changed a lot after a waited few minutes before i sent the email i intended to send
    thanks for the post : )

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  • Joel Schmidt

    Great post Michael. There are a lot of ways to send the wrong message to the wrong recipient: send vs. save, reply vs. fwd, auto-fill recipient, etc. I’ve done most of these. Acting on a tip from a good manger/mentor, I now start EVERY draft email by entering “DO NOT SEND” into the “To:” field.  Hasn’t failed me, yet.

  • La

    it’s true. don’t say anything bad when we are indignant. best to do is could help  us feel better.. hatred lessens…

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  • Business Coach Steve

    Michael, can I re-post this post on my blog page with a link back to you?

  • Business Coach Steve

    Michael, I’d like permission to re-post this post in it’s entirety with a link back to you. Let me know. Thanks.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Actually, I don’t allow that. Google will penalize us both, because the content is duplicated. You can see my permissions policy here.

      • Business Coach Steve

        OK. Your permissions policy said:

        You must have my express written consent to do any of the following:Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Good point. I have just updated the policy. Thanks.

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  • Christopher Battles

    Thank you Michael.
    Good step by step and reminder.

    K, bye 

  • TomM

    Sometimes it can be difficult to receive an angry, hostile message from someone, but the approach I always take is to get up and take a 5-10 minute walk outside before I even contemplate my course of action.  Last fall I received an angry letter from an upset graduate student who claimed that, “We will get the project done in spite of your participation.”  She copied five other people, even someone in the senior administration.  I decided not to reply to her as I think that was the best response.

  • John Mark Harris

    Save your anger for blog comments (you jerk!)

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  • Alena Store

    ))) angry… Yes, it is human nature to be angry – ) once I was so furious that wanted to destroy all on my way!!! But very soon I regretted about my dids. In film “Wall-street wolfs” pack leader teachs young broker Jeff : ” you can be very angry but you must control your emotion, because you can kill…” So I prefer to put myself on other person place to understand why she or he did it…. And forgive. To forgive is mean to understand) it is golden rule of life) Alena

  • Scott Johnson

    This is a lesson I seem to have to repeat over and over. I always tell myself, after a situation like this occurs, that I’m going to be more careful next time and cool off before I send that angry email. I seem to never actually heed my own advice, though, which is a problem for certain.

    On the other hand, I also make situations worse by allowing myself to get goaded into situations like this. When someone sends me an angry email, but CC’s a bunch of others on the email, I often feel as though I need to defend myself to the group. So, often, in the heat of the moment, I craft an angry response and then immediately hit send. This isn’t the right way to approach things, as it simply puts you in the same muck that your colleague/friend/neighbor/etc… put you into. Now it escalates even more.

    Some of the folks on this comment thread have responded about having the discipline to write angry emails into another document type, and then sleep on it, or at least wait until you’ve cooled down before sending it. One thing that I’ve found that negates this, though, is when you sit down to write an email, not intending for it to be negative and angry, and then it somehow goes awry as you are writing it. I guess my question is – How did you develop this discipline when you are writing emails in the first place? I would assume you don’t wait to send EVERY email until you’ve slept, and sometimes it’s easy to tell what’s going to be inflammatory and what isn’t, but I find that sometimes it’s not so easy…

  • girl

    I sent an angry private email message family members who had harmed me many years ago–and my anger just shot out in this long message on facebook. Everything I said was true but how do I know if I crossed the line? when I sent it I felt lighter better, fo the first time in years I had spoken up and called htem out on everything, but after I wasn’t sure if I had done something wrong or not????????

  • John Broom

    I sent an aggresive email from work to my wife, I was so annoyed with what she had done – it cost me my Job, I got dismissed by the company

  • John Broom

    I sent an aggressive email to my wife from work, she had done something bad – I lost my job for doing this and was dismissed