Why a simple email can be like a red rag to a bull | Thijs Launspach

Why a simple email can be like a red rag to a bull |  Thijs Launspach

Psychologist Thijs Launspach is a stress expert and author of the book Education pressure. He shines a light on modern work and gives tips every week for more happiness and less stress at work. Today: rage mail

Just like this, on Thursday afternoon, I went from zero to one hundred in rage, all because of an email barely ten lines long. I’ll spare you the content, but it had something to do with questioning my work, along with a sneaky, passive-aggressive tone – exactly the one I can’t stand… The consequences are obvious: fist, clumsy, steam from the ears. And the uncontrollable desire to tell the sender the truth, in response to muscle language and with a lot of #$@!

Email can be a red rag for a bull, which is not surprising. Wherever you receive nonverbal information from the other person in a phone conversation or physical conversation (facial expression, tone, or warmth of voice), you have to do so in an email without that knowledge. So you have to think about the context yourself, and that doesn’t always work out well. This is why the intended neutral message can be read as a declaration of war.


What is practical, the clear tone of the sender may feel laconic and biting for the receiver

What is practical, the clear tone of the sender may feel laconic and biting for the receiver. For the same reason, messages are sometimes misinterpreted as humorous, ironic, ironic, or ambiguous. I learned the latter when I once said the phrase “wow, what a stupid thing to say” to a group of people. By email. I meant that I was stupid myself, but the recipient was angry because he thought he was being called an idiot…

If, like me, you tend to get pissed off occasionally over email like this, there are fortunately a few things you can do to limit the damage. What I’ve Learned – Through Trial and Error:

1. Give yourself thirty minutes to calm down. Yes, I know you’re eager to “share your thoughts” with the mailer right away, but it’s not a bad idea to give yourself some breathing space first. Drink a glass of water, go for a walk, hit a puncture bag and don’t start until the sharp anger at your response has subsided.

2. Make it professional. Avoid swearing, capitalization, and personal attacks, however tempting they may be. None of this help, and more: an email can always be found once it’s been sent. So always read your answer before submitting, and delete all conflicting language.

3. Ask someone else to read your answer first. Ask the person, “Is this possible?” Really, the latter saves lives!

Thijs Launspach is a psychologist and stress expert. He wrote Fokking Druk (2018), Working with Millennials (2019) and Werk kan uit (2020) on the topic.

When you’re angry, do you hit him right away? Jill Lobestel (Maastricht University) shows how by measuring brain activity we can determine when anger turns into aggression:

Watch the videos about work and the job in the playlist below:

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