Some Thoughts About Email

Sometimes the best response to email is to just not say anything.   In addition to the Right Speech guidelines of  “Is it kind? Is it necessary?  Is it true?”  you might  also have to ask “Is it Actually My Job?”  “Is it timely?”  “Is it useful?” “Is it congruent?”

If you’re aggravated.  If the words in your head sound snarky or short tempered even to yourself. Probably this isn’t going to go well. Managing tone in email requires first of all managing your own inner conversation.

If you haven’t given other people enough time to solve the problem themselves. Or if the email has been sitting there for too long in a fast moving situation, and you need, first, to check if you’re responding to a current reality.

If you’re just cc’d on an email.  You’re probably just being copied for information.  Maybe answering this email really isn’t your job. (Even if you have the information — see above about letting people solve their problems.)

If your answer involves information you don’t have time to actually look up but you’ll gesture vaguely in the direction that it exists.  If you’re not sure what response you want next from your email, keep thinking and refine the question or the answer.

If you’re saying something on behalf of someone else, or to protect someone else.   In general, shut up and let them speak for themselves.

I sometimes send 10, 20, even 50 emails in a day.  Do I get this right on all of them?  I’m sure I don’t.  But each time I consider these questions first, it goes better in the end.


If you ask people whom you consider to be wise and courageous about their lives, you may find that they have hurt a lot of people and made a lot of mistakes, but that they used those occasions as opportunities to humble themselves and open their hearts. We don’t get wise by staying in a room with all the doors and windows closed.  — Pema Chodron 


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