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Are You Among the 70% of Brits That Have Messaged the Wrong Person?

30/06/2015 10:30 BST | Updated 29/06/2016 10:59 BST

There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling you get when you realise you have accidentally sent an email, text, etc. to the wrong person. According to OnePoll, 70% of Brits regularly do this, often with embarrassing consequences.

That is a huge figure when you think about it but does it mean that the majority of us are sloppy and are incapable of carrying out such simple tasks? Highly doubtful. If nearly two thirds of the nation were that clumsy we'd be making mistakes in most areas of our lives.

The problem is that we are overrun with technology and communications.

With the rise in smartphone usage, most of us are rarely out of touch with technology. We are continually messaging people, sending emails, checking social media sites and making calls, not forgetting our other tasks to attend to.

While this high level of interaction can be positive, for the likes of work and staying in the loop with peers, it can also be too much for our brains to handle.

Psychologists call it 'cognitive overload' - or information overload, as we know it. This can cause us to make mistakes, which can create all kinds of problems. Sometimes little, sometimes huge.

Louise Nesbitt, a bookkeeper from Perth, Australia, is a good example of how sending a message to the wrong person can have a devastating outcome.

In January, Ms Nesbitt had intended to send a text to her daughter's boyfriend, who had been contracted to conduct plumbing at her office. In the message, which was accidentally sent to her boss, she described him (Robert Gardner) as "a complete d***", adding "we know this already so please try your best not to tell him that regardless of how you feel the need."

Louise Nesbitt then attempted to make things better by apologising and saying it was a "family joke". Unfortunately Mr Gardner failed to see the funny side and sacked her just five days later for gross misconduct.

While it is too late for Louise Nesbitt to take back what she did, there are some ways that you can redeem yourself if you too message the wrong person.

1. Recall your message

Gmail's new 'Undo Send' feature lets you delay sending your email for up to 30 seconds after you click send, so you can take it back if you make a mistake. Similarly, a relatively new private cloud-sharing app called Pushfor allows users to recall content even after it has been delivered. This completely removes it from the recipient's device without them knowing it was ever there. Louise Nesbitt could have done with this to help her preserve her job.

2. Limit the amount of times your message is viewed

While this would not have changed things for Louise Nesbitt, it definitely helps soften the blow for others. SnapChat allows users to send self-expiring content. What this means is that if you do make an error it will eventually disappear and you can quite simply pretend it never happened. This is good for teenagers who are constantly sharing content and I would not be surprised if the business world now looks for a solution allowing them to do this.

3. Deactivate your social media account

While it may seem OTT, some scenarios are just too embarrassing to face and you might just need to temporarily delete your account. There is of course, often the option to reactivate it at a later date in the hope that your message goes unnoticed.

4. Tone down your technology intake

Clearly, this one is going to prove most difficult or probably impossible, so why not instead simplify the way you consume information. Try to communicate via fewer channels and opt for services that cover all of your needs.

For example, use a social media management tool, e.g. Hootsuite, to communicate via all social networks. Or choose a platform that lets you take control of how you share content and with whom. We are rapidly moving from over sharing in public to sharing in private. A number of interesting platforms are emerging in this space including Infinit and Wickr.

5. Don't worry

We all make mistakes sometimes and it is important, in that moment of despair, to remember - it could be worse, you could be in Louise Nesbitt's shoes. A simple sorry can often do the trick.

Has this ever happened to you, and what were the consequences?