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Comms Essentials ~ how to avoid flame wars

emailing flame wars

Comms Essentials 
Avoid writing emails and making phone calls when you’re angry, upset or frustrated. Instead, meet with the person or phone them to sort issues amicably and quickly.

 Consider this scenario…
Pink person

Person 1 – feeling uneasy/unhappy with something person 2 has done/said (or not done/said) spends 30 mins (or more) crafting an email to make sure all points are covered and to leave recipient in no doubt as to what his/her feelings are.


Blue person


Person 2 – instantly feels anger and either writes back straightaway with similar venom, or has a sleepless night (takes it out on wife/husband/cat/anything in sight) then crafts a reply which takes an hour to write and covers off all those points with equal and matching data to back up his/her point of view.


Pink person


Person 1 – reaches higher anger levels and takes an hour and a half to write back with increasing adjectives, judgements and opinions – and copies in his/her boss to boot.


Blue person


Person 2 – goes for a cigarette break (despite not being a smoker), sounds off to others to gain some allies and then sends allies off to spread the word.


Pink person


Person 1 – experiences palpitations whilst reading the next email and goes off to….    ETC, ETC.


A bit of a far-stretched story, maybe – but you get the picture!  So what can we do to avoid ‘flame’ email wars?

Tips for avoiding Flame Wars:

  • If you’re sitting with fingers poised to the keyboard and notice you are feeling in any way unnerved, wary, disappointed, uncomfortable, frustrated, irritated, or downright angry about something… stop, take a deep breath.
  • Consider what this feeling is telling you about this situation. What do you need right now? Is there anything underlying that need, e.g. you might think you just need an answer to something but maybe underlying that is a need for your opinions to be understood or heard?
  • Consider when might be a good time for you to talk about this with the other person. Then either phone or email them to set a meeting time. If you are emailing, keep it polite and purely on the subject of ‘having a discussion about  X’.
  • After the discussion, you may wish to confirm what has been said – as objectively as possible – in an email.



Penelope Newton-Hurley is a Communication Troubleshooter,Consultant, Trainer and Mediator
The Communication Troubleshooter helps drive engagement and performance through Emotional Intelligence and CommPassion© Communication techniques.

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