Home » Happiness Tip: Ignore a Distressing Email


Happiness Tip: Ignore a Distressing Email

Rude comments on this blog (we don’t post most of them) and mean emails (yes, I get hate mail for writing about happiness) tend to reach an all-time high at this time of year: the holidays can be a hard time for folks emotionally.

Stress levels run high, and people have to deal with difficult family members and challenging emotions.

Studies show that people are more likely to be hostile and aggressive online than they are in their face-to-face communications. The anonymity of the Internet can block people’s self-awareness, making them less in-tune with their emotional states. This makes it harder for people to control their behavior and engage in rational conversation.

Nasty online communication is a phenomenon called “flaming.” Research shows that when people flame, their comments reflect how they were feeling before they read (or heard, or experienced) whatever they responded to so angrily. We may think we are engaging in an intellectual debate, but actually, we are just acting out the funk we were in before we read that blog post that supposedly ticked us off.

Take Action: If you get a nasty email this holiday season, consider ignoring it for a while before responding. Instead, practice compassion. Is there a heated emotional situation that you know they are dealing with that might have spilled over into email?

Join the Discussion: Have you been “flamed” this year by an acquaintance, or even by a close friend or family member? How did you respond? Share with us by commenting below.

Are you tempted to flame someone? Here are some reasons to hold back.



  1. Kathryn says:

    I love this blog. I haven’t gotten a nasty email in a while but I sure do remember how easy it is to get sucked into that vortex of anger aside the emailer. No thanks!

    By the way, where is that wonderful, “See no evil” statue? I have a beautiful old one that was my grandmother’s and I love that image and the practice it represents!

  2. Flamed by a family member says:

    I was flamed by my sister in law and her 11 year old daughter two years ago. It was horrible. There were events that led up to the nasty emails, but all the same those emails were incredibly detailed and hurtful to me. I did not respond to those emails, she broke off any communication to me as well which I was thankful for. I still feel incredibly uncomfortable about the situation. I called her last year to extend an olive branch and it completely blew up in my face, she was very angry still although she admitted that her email was inappropriate. This fall my father in law died and now the sister in law is hugging me and acting like nothing happened. I’m not sure how to act around her and her family as well, I feel incredibly distrustful of her and want to keep a distance but that’s not possible due to the fact that we are family. I was thinking of setting up a meeting with just the two of us to discuss the matter…but maybe that’s not the right thing. Thank you for this post! Maybe my husband’s right and I should pretend like it didn’t happen, although I have a really hard time with that!

    • Ug – such a hard situation. I recommend you forgive the email, and the situation. Maybe even write a note saying that you have forgiven, you’re hoping to move on, and asking for forgiveness for your part in it…hopefully everyone will feel better, and can move forward. (That said, I’m not saying forget, or that she won’t have to earn your trust again. But at least you won’t still be holding all that negativity.)

  3. Sandra says:

    Wow, Christine. I am blown away that you get hate mail! You are so engaging and do nothing but wonderful work. You have wise words that I will keep in mind should it happen to me.

  4. Jamie says:

    I am continually flamed by someone I thought was a close friend for some unknown reason. To make it even more confusing she starts off every interaction with a very sarcastic or punitive comment, disguised as a joke, then followed up by what seems like sincere interest. In many cases she has verbally wagged her finger at me and my family for being on time rather than being early. It’s all so petty. I had asked her to ease up on the comments and she agreed but within a very short period of time went right back to the behavior. I find myself dreading seeing her, which is inevitable as she is not only a neighbor but our children attend the same school and after school care program. It’s really uncomfortable so I have opted to avoid her although am pleasant if we happen to cross paths. Any advice???

Comments are closed.