"You've got to be kidding me."

I'd just received an email. A client was looking for a strategy document that I hadn't even started yet. (We had never finalized a deadline and we obviously had different ideas of how high a priority this was.)

It had been a busy month, and I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Now, I was getting a request from a client ... on the weekend.

I started drafting a response:

Hey, Jason: We never set a deadline on this and I've been swamped. I haven't even started on this document yet. You see ...

I decided to stop before sending the reply. 

Sending this will be a huge mistake, I thought.

What if you were the one receiving this message. What would you think? Probably that you contracted the wrong person. 

The thing was, I really loved this client and this project. I had gotten through the rough period, and now I was ready to focus.

So, I rewrote the draft:

Hey, Jason: Thanks for your message. I'm on this. Should have a draft to you within 48 hours. Look forward to discussing.

The result?

Jason responded with a thumbs-up, and the project moved forward without worry.

Everybody was happy.

So, how can you make sure to get your emotions under control and avoid sending angry emails?

Follow the three-step process.

The three-step process

The three-step process is rooted in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions. 

When you get an email that inspires anger, frustration, anxiety, or similar feelings, do the following:

1. Don't respond right away. Depending on the subject, a few minutes' pause may be enough. But if you're really riled up, it may be good to wait 24 hours.

2. Write a draft. Your first draft will be emotional. But writing something down right away can help you clarify your own thoughts and feelings. Giving yourself the chance to vent--to yourself--can also help relieve stress. 

3. After waiting, review and revise. Again, 24 hours is ideal, but if that's not possible, just give it as much time as you can. Then, thinking of your audience, ask yourself: 

  • Is there anything that could be misinterpreted or that sounds angry, desperate, or emotional?
  • Is the message confusing? Will it raise more questions than it will answer?
  • Is there anything unnecessary I can remove from this message?
  • Would it be better to communicate this by phone (or in person)?

Revise as necessary.

This may seem like a lot at first, but do it enough and it becomes second nature.

So, the next time you're in an emotional moment, hit the pause button before hitting send. You'll raise your EQ, bring your emotions back to balance, and avoid potential catastrophe.