You know those moments when a coworker is being so outrageously frustrating, you’re sure steam is about to start billowing from your ears like you’re an actual cartoon character? Before firing off an email reply that translates into “OMG, how did you even get this job?!” or shooting a snappy verbal comeback their way, press pause. “Many times, the human reaction is to have the last word to, in effect, win the conversation or argument,” said Hallie Crawford, certified career coach and founder of HallieCrawford.com. But in these instances, it’s best to “let your emotions settle before responding,” she explained.
It can be hard to admit—or to remember in the moment when all you want to do is fly off the handle—but it’s true. Think about it: When has someone being rude or overly reactive ever won them your respect? Instead of giving in to your instincts, remove yourself from the situation if possible. “If you are having a face-to-face conversation, count to 10 before responding, or excuse yourself and cool down,” said Crawford. After that, you’ll be better able to evaluate how to proceed. The smoothest way to extricate yourself is by being honest. “Let the other person know that you do not want to continue discussing the matter while your emotions are high, and you’d rather think things through before replying,” said Crawford.
[Related: The Right Way To Send Emails]
What about if you’re dealing with a digital back-and-forth? Avoid that post-send feeling of regret by getting all your feelings out there, but not actually sending the message out into the digital universe. “Write a draft and come back to it later. Once you have cooled down, reread it and determine if it will help to resolve the situation, or make it worse,” said Crawford. If you still feel emotions rising up when you reread it, that’s a hint you’re not ready to analyze the situation logically. “It’s easy to write things that you would never say to someone in person, so avoid writing an email when you’re emotional,” added Crawford.
Adopting this tactic can ultimately make both your life and your coworkers’ lives markedly better. “This practice foments respect in the workplace,” said Crawford. When you do this in person, it’s a subtle way of reinforcing the fact that you’re both adults, and you want to collaborate on a solution to the issue at hand rather than butt heads about how to resolve it. When you hold back before pressing send on an email, you’re not only respecting the person on the other end of the message, you’re keeping your own work reputation pristine. Consider that a win-win.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.