I just did it myself. I hit “reply to all” instead of hitting “reply.” I didn’t even realize my mistake until I received an automated response from someone whose name I didn’t recognize. Luckily for me, the message only went to my son’s swim instructor and some other parents, and the message wasn’t questionable, but I still feel sheepish. Most of us have made this mistake or have heard stories about people who have. The last time I did this a few year’s ago, I shot off a snarky response to a family member’s chain-mail message that accidentally went to several other people, embarrassing both of us but thankfully causing no undue damage. Then there’s the friend who forwarded an email from a prospective employer to his mother, who somehow managed to reply not to her son, but to the prospective employer, with some pointed comments about their compensation offer. The internet abounds with hilarious messages gone terribly awry due to the autocorrect function. When the situations involve clients or higher-ups, negative emoting, or blatant errors, however, the situation can be much less humorous.
So consider this my public service announcement of the week: remember that technology moves faster than your brain at times and plan accordingly. While smart phones, instant messages, and email all operate at the speed of light, it doesn’t mean we should try to keep up. The pressure to respond instantaneously is increased when we receive hundreds of emails a day and desperately want to act to get out from under the onslaught. Acting from a calm place is always a better choice, so slow down, just for a minute. Double check the recipient and subject lines. Proofread. Above all, follow this essential communication rule: don’t do or say anything while your emotions are running high. Whether it if fair or not, people evaluate others in part based on their communications, particularly when they are visual. Especially in professional communications, there is no reason not to take an extra thirty seconds to make sure you are sending the right message.