Draft And Burn

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We can sometimes forget how easy it is to blast off a message in the heat of the moment.

One of the biggest drawbacks to these digital channels is that it’s hard to understand the emotion that happens behind a text (emoticons can both help and hinder this further). I grapple with this on a daily basis. In person (and those who know me can attest to this), I’m quite dry and sarcastic (maybe even a little dark) with my sense of humor. It is something that I can’t turn off and it can be hard to read in person, so I can’t imagine how challenging it might be to "get" in a tweet on Twitter, through a Facebook status update or in an email. There’s a reason why I write and Blog the way that I do. I’m shooting much more for clarity and directness.

When you’re really pissed off.

Social Media often makes me laugh (and/or shake my head). I’ll read posts from people who are using their fingers and connectivity as if it’s a steam valve and it happens right in the heat of the moment. As frustrated as I may be, as wrong as I think that someone is in certain instances, I apply one simple trick that (usually) staves off a tweet or post in the heat of the moment…

Create a draft first.

Write that tweet. Unload via a Blog post, but save it as a draft before hitting the "send" or "publish" button. Bruce Lee used to write and write and when he was done, he would set it all on fire. It was less about publishing or sharing his thoughts and much more about the critical thinking and/or brain dumping. I’ll often write drafts upon drafts – especially when it’s something that is making you mad. The technique is similar to counting to ten before blurting something out to the kids or a spouse, but the difference comes after the draft is saved. More often than not, you should burn it, delete it and forget it.

Knee jerk reactions tend to lead to moments of jerkiness more than anything else.


  1. lots of ‘bad’ examples of this in sportsmen and women…. for professional athletes who train long and hard to control their on pitch performance, the onset of social media has meant the loosening of control and professionalism off pitch – training required…!!!

  2. Thank you for your post, Mitch. It’s one of those excruciating tests of diplomacy and willpower: what do you do when someone takes issue with something you’ve done and sends you a rude email copying several people or a nasty tweet in public? Sometimes even if you respond publicly in a graceful fashion, you legitimize the offending party. I try to set an example in my response and follow up with the other person privately. I might add in my private reply, “The tone of that email you wrote (or that tweet) was unprofessional and put me in a difficult position because I know I could have nailed you publicly with a reply. I want you to know I’m following up with you in private to show you how I think we should address a sensitive matter like this — having a private discussion to make sure we understand each other.” In this example, I’m not suggesting we ignore or take private a rigorous debate about a topic that can benefit from public discourse; I’m referring to responses to flaming emails, tweets, blog comments, etc. Of course, you can simply ignore the other party, but sometimes a follow-up is required (e.g., if the other person is someone you work with regularly).

  3. Totally agree – it’s cathartic to spew everything out on paper (or screen 😉 but often wise to tear everything up or hit delete once you’re spent. Taking the high road always works out better in the end, I think. And even wiser in the public space of social media, where when you make an ass of yourself, you’re likely to turn off not only the object of your venom, but a lot of people you’d rather impress. A public lynching is a painful thing to watch.

  4. I’m reminded of a letter from Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, a close friend he’d made in London.
    “Mr. Strahan,
    You are a Member of Parliament, and one of that Majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun to burn our towns, and murder our people. Look upon your hands! They are stained with the blood of your relations! You and I were long friends; You are now my enemy, and I am, Yours,
    B. Franklin.”
    Can’t you picture the smoke coming out of Franklin’s ears? While he allowed the letter to be circulated in Philadelphia, he never sent it to Strahan, but filed it. At the time Franklin’s zeal for independence was being questioned, and he was a consummate self-brander (but that’s another post). He sent a different letter, and maintained the friendship throughout the war, technically enemies.

  5. Years ago, I’d write (and post!) while full of emotion, and then after learning through natural processes and a little common sense, the posts either get deleted or revised.
    Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Patience and “burning” the emotion filled post have their place. Especially when so many have access to our message.

  6. Nic, can’t agree with you more. Some in professional sports will post during an emotional pitch. Part of the learning curve I guess. As you’ve mentioned, a bit of the discipline they’ve developed would come in handy while posting their messages.

  7. Agreed!
    A few nights ago in Calgary, Air Canada messed up my seat and sent me from first class (where I had used my points to upgrade) to the back row of the plane, middle seat. I was pissed off and sent out a tweet thanking them for screwing over their most loyal customers. Not fifteen minutes later my problem was solved by one very patient and smart agent who was able to make things better for me by putting me on a different flight.
    I felt awful, because that first angry tweet was picked up and retweeted and in the end it wasn’t entirely true at all.

  8. It’s funny.. a little while ago I did this post that was.. well me wrestling with my anger. I had an awful lot to be angry about.. and anyway.. I figured the object of my anger probably didn’t know what a blog was.. but even if she did.. and found it.. well it would be written in a way that was like.. I don’t know.. not to bad.
    Then.. why just the other day.. I received word through the grapevine that she had found it and was afraid for her well being.
    But I’m not sure that that’s a bad thing. I mean I feel like one of those apes that throws his fists wildly as if to say “you really ought to lay off right now.” Like you’re pushing a line you shouldn’t push.
    Anyway, I don’t remember the last time I was so angry.. and yeah.. I could see doing very bad things…
    But.. I don’t know.. I feel like.. anger serves a purpose for us.. and.. I think just being angry and expressing that.. isn’t a bad thing.. its just like.. well when we’re in the heat of the anger.. we can not have the fullness of mind.. or consideration.. that we would if we were in a calmer state.. and.. what we say and our actions.. could have bad consequences.. and blah blah blah
    But still.. I guess I just don’t want to be too much against anger and its expression, and whatever…

  9. The practice of drafting, reviewing, and revising an emotionally-charged post before making it public has actually helped me with my face-to-face, verbal exchanges.
    Experiencing the regret that comes after writing and posting something written in the heat of the moment has been a lesson for me. Once I started the practice of drafting and waiting before hitting the ‘send’ button, I realized that I could do the same in traditional conversations.
    Not only have I gotten better at “holding my tongue,” but I have also become a better listener, I think. I find myself “drafting” my response as a mental note, and then asking questions (rather than making comments) that may . . . or may not . . . support my position. It’s amazing how often my position changes as a result. In the process, I often also avoid making premature and even nasty statements that I would certainly regret later.
    While I believe that the way we conduct online conversations should follow the general rules of relationship, I also believe that the way we conduct our online relationships can help to refine our relationship skills, in general.

  10. Mitch, this should be a must-read post for everyone, but especially for people working in social media.
    “Draft” is my friend. “Draft” can save friendships and reputations.

  11. Interestingly, this very same point was touched on by Dale Carnegie in his “How To Win Friends and Influence People”. In a section of the book, he talks about the great Mark Twain who would write letters of such venom to those who incurred his wrath that they would “turn the paper brown”. The story goes that Twain’s wife never mailed the letters, so sparing the author possible embarrassment after he had cooled down. The chapter also makes mention of a similar example in President Abraham Lincoln.
    My late father was all for never losing control of his emotions publicly. He would rail against any less than prime situation in private but to the world he was a complete stoic. As such, he was never prone to knee-jerk reactions. It’s an example I’ve tried to follow and it’s served me well. Actually, I blogged about a local example of someone who tried to take on Nivea very publicly and so far seems to have done nothing but receive egg on her face.
    For the record, I’m all for taking those who deserve it down a peg or two but I totally agree in taking a moment and considering whether the situation deserves a response at all. More often than not, it doesn’t.
    And for those of us may suffer chronically from l’esprit de l’escalier, all I can say is work on the witty retorts or let it slide.

  12. I call this the “spew then review” rule. Never hit send until you are absolutely sure that what you have said is what you want people to hear.
    Of course, it would make Stephen Fry much less entertaining to follow!

  13. I agree, you don’t write when you’re angry but I’ve found that some of my better writing was written because I was angry. The difference is taking time, taking anything personal out of it and writing as a result of the emotion, not from the emotion.

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