If The Buddha had used email, he probably would have given guidelines on “Right Emailing” as he did for “Right Speech”. While email can sometimes misrepresent the tone, attitude, and intention of one’s message, it does have a unique advantage – we can take time to give an articulate, calm, and helpful reply since we don’t need to respond immediately. Mindfulness is the key to clear and wise email communication. In order to minimize the difficulties that can arise through email communication, we offer the following guidelines:
Be mindful of your intentions and state of mind. Take a moment to breathe and clear the mind and heart so you can be mindful of the message you are about to receive or send. If you are hurried, stressed or not present, please wait to send or receive the message at a better time. As the recipient, be sure to read the complete message without taking it personally or adding a story to it. As the sender, let your response sit a while, then re-read it to see if it conveys what you really mean. Pause and note the state of your mind and body before you send the message. Convey only what is necessary, true, useful, and kind.
Please avoid using email to resolve interpersonal difficulties or discuss emotionally charged issues – talk to the person directly. Except for statements of appreciation, avoid emailing judgments about what people have done or said. Refrain from idle gossip and divisive or harsh words.
Choose the appropriate medium for communication. Some people are more at ease speaking rather than writing. Ask if a phone call or face-to-face meeting is preferred and can be arranged. Allow an appropriate amount of time for the recipient(s) to respond if they do not regularly check email.
Include the necessary history and information for the recipient(s) to understand what has been sent. If there is more than one recipient, be sure to copy your response to all recipients, unless it is clearly unnecessary. If you include a new recipient into an email discussion, be sure to include the necessary information for him or her to join the discussion. The recipient(s) may not read the message on the same day you send it – use specific dates and times as necessary to be clear. Allow for multiple replies and time for all recipients to respond, as needed. Be mindful regarding when you want to use or not use the “reply all” when addressing the email.
Right Speech – either spoken or written – can be challenging. Receiving and sending emails can provide an excellent opportunity for us to apply wisdom and mindfulness in our practice.