Have you ever hit “reply all” in an email message, sending your note to a group of people when you intended it only for one or two of them? Have you ever Tweeted something, thinking it was a private direct message, only to discover a few seconds later that you actually sent it as a reply, and it's visible to everyone? I have done both of those things. Fortunately, most of my Tweets and email messages are business related. If they are personal, they are of such a nature that, I would not be ashamed if the whole world eventually saw them.
Unfortunately, Rep. Anthony Weiner has not been as discrete. As a result, not only is his future filled with humiliating jokes, but his career, his integrity, and his personal relationships have been badly damaged. In the intensity of conversation on Twitter and FaceBook, it is easy to push the wrong button and send something publicly that is meant for private eyes only. While the nature of private messages range from harmless chatter to inappropriate or even illegal activities, let this be a reminder to all of us as small business leaders to think twice — even 10 or 12 times — before sending ANYthing to ANYone online. Here are a few easy ways to ensure that certain messages don't end up in the wrong hands.
- Don't send certain messages at all. If before sending a message, you get a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that maybe you shouldn't send it, don't send it. Some things are simply not meant to be said. Ever.
- Pick up the phone. If you get the queasy feeling, but you still think you must communicate your thoughts, pick up the phone and do so, or go see the person so you can discuss things face-to-face. Yes, people have memories, and they can repeat what you said, or at least what they thought you said. It's not 100% full-proof, but at least there's no Twitter or ISP trail for people to go digging around in.
- Sleep on it. If, for whatever reason, you need to use technology to send one of those “queasy” messages, sleep on it first. Chances are you will decide in the morning that it's not necessary to send it at all.
Some of this may seem entirely impractical and unrealistic in today's world of fast-paced everything. Yet, as a small business leaders, we have to think twice before we do just bout everything, so why why not do so when it comes to things that need to be communicated, but which must be communicated in a certain way in order to avoid trouble for yourself or harm to others?
There have been many times, both personally and professionally, when I could have saved myself and others a lot of trouble had I just slept on a draft message before I hit the SEND key.
Sleep On It
I don't mean to oversimplify, but it works. I have read about studies showing that sleep helps our brains weed out information we don't need so we can make better decisions. If this is true, then “sleeping on it” allows us to wake up with the ability to better process the information we need to decide whether or not to hit the SEND key.
I have experienced this myself. I have never once regretted listening to that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that said, “Draft it, but don't send it until tomorrow.” Nine times out of 10, when the dawn came, I hit DELETE instead of SEND. And life worked out just fine.
By the time Rep. Weiner had exchanged multiple texts, Tweets, phone calls, IMs and chats to multiple women over a period of months, a simple “sleep on it” strategy may not have worked.
But I wonder what would have happened if he had done it the first time ….
Question: Have you ever slept on a message before sending it? Wished you had? How did things work out?