Have you heard of email rage? That’s when people react to an insult in an email – real or imagined – and immediately fire off an angry reply. However, a knee-jerk reaction could ruin friendships, damage your reputation, get you fired, or kill your chances for promotion. According to Career Builder, people tend to leap to defend themselves when a coworker misinterprets something they said, and sends an accusatory email to half the company. Or when they receive an email filled with exclamation points, and words in all caps – which is the Internet equivalent of shouting. In a recent survey, 26% of companies say they’ve fired an employee for misusing email.

Linda Stone, who worked for both Microsoft and Apple, calls it “email apnea.” She coined the phrase after researching and observing people under the influence of email. She noticed that most of us have a compulsion to respond quickly to emails. We also have a tendency to hold our breath when replying to an email – especially an upsetting one. Doctors backed up her observations and say, when you hold your breath, the brain is momentarily deprived of oxygen. That creates a stress response – and adds more emotion to what you’re typing. So, before you send an angry reply, try these tips:

  • First: Resist the urge to “let someone have it.” Try this instead: Open a new email, and don’t put any names in the address slots. Once you’ve finished venting, delete it – or stick it in your “drafts” box – and move on.
  • Another tip to avoid a case of email rage: Vent OFFLINE. For example, ask a friend you trust to give you perspective when you’re spitting mad. Bottom line: You can’t undo the damage once you press ‘send.’
  • Finally: If you have an issue with a coworker, don’t create an electronic trail that can be forwarded, printed and referred to again and again. Studies show that people misjudge the tone of an email almost half of the time, and people feel freer to express themselves in email because they don't have to look the person in the eye. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, don't put it in an email.