Email is wonderful but be careful before you hit send. You can send a message anytime you want and it is on its way immediately. That is a good thing- sometime.

There is an old saying: Measure twice; cut once. That is wise advice for the times you are doing some home improvements but the principle can be broadly applied. It certainly is appropriate wisdom related to communication, whether spoken or written.

Recently I had some charges on a credit card that did not seem correct. Before I disputed them with the credit card company I contacted the merchant. At the manager’s request I sent copies of my credit card statement with the items in question. When I did not receive a prompt reply, I contacted him again and was informed that he was away for a few days but his assistant would handle it.

After reviewing my correspondence the assistant advised me by email that that the charges were correct. I responded to her email to further explain my position and I copied her boss so everyone could be on the same page. In just a couple of minutes I received a reply from the manager. The tone and language of the email were very disrespectful and demeaning. It was obvious that I was not the intended recipient.

Subsequent correspondence clarified that the email was intended for the manager’s assistant and not me, the customer. The manager had expressed his opinion hastily and hit “send.” He expressed his thoughts but they were misdirected. The follow up apology made it clear that he realized his mistake but it was too late.

Who among us has not been guilty of speaking before thinking? A thought occurs and it is formed into words and they are spoken before realizing they are inappropriate or harmful. A little time and the thoughts would have been framed differently or maybe not expressed at all. It may be that our wisest words are the ones we do not say.

Words are powerful. They can hurt or heal. Build bridges or create chasms. Inflame or inspire. Motivate or irritate. Napoleon Hill offers this advice: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Joel Osteen says, “You can change your world by changing your words…Remember, death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The Bible reminds us that “the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly… a small flame (that) can set a whole forest on fire” (James 3:5 Common English Bible).

A good New Year’s resolution might be “I will think before I speak or ‘send.”

Jamie Jenkins