Cure Your Email Headaches!

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Do not hide behind your keyboard to avoid uncomfortable or difficult conversations.

In the spirit of National Honesty Day, let’s be honest. We have all decided to send an email to deal with an uncomfortable or upsetting issue instead of having a direct conversation. Do emails really help resolve issues or confusion more quickly and effectively?

Research shows that 90% of a message’s meaning is conveyed by tone, body language, context and source; not just words. Therefore with email, tensions rise and problems escalate when people hide behind their keyboards to avoid the discomfort of talking directly about issues. This leads to distorted one-way conversations that lack the tone, context and body language that clarify messages in two-way dialogue. Thus, email wars erupt, clutter mailboxes, eat up time and thwart collaboration, morale and productivity.

Email can be a terrific, quick and efficient form of communication, or it can be horrific. It all depends on how it is used. Below are a few tips for how to effectively use email:

Use email for its four main purposes: to communicate information, to receive information, as a form of documentation, and for friendly correspondence.

For example, use email to keep everyone informed of a project’s status, to verify what was discussed in a face-to-face or phone conversation, to ask a quick question, to say hello, and to compliment.

Do not use email to resolve emotional upsets.

In other words, if you are upset with someone or someone is upset with you, do not use email. Call the person or go talk to the person face to face. Given the inherent difficulties with communication via email, it is not a good way to communicate emotions or resolve difficulties.

State the purpose of your email immediately.

By stating the purpose in the subject heading or in the first sentence of your text, you minimize the possibility that the recipient will misinterpret your message or delete it before it is read.

Write email as you would a newspaper article.

The first paragraph should contain the most pertinent information, with details following in subsequent paragraphs. People are busy and need the highlights. They may never finish the email and may miss important information if it is buried in the body of the text. If appropriate, have a quick summary sentence at the end.

If an email volleys more than twice, pick up the phone.

If you email back and forth with someone more than two times about the same issue, it is time to pick up the phone and get clarification. When emails volley back and forth about the same issue, it is often a sign that something else is going on (someone is really upset, doesn’t understand, is being resistant, and so on).

If you don’t want an email published in a newspaper, don’t send it.

You never know what will happen with your email or to whom it will be forwarded once you press send.

This National Honesty Day, choose to use email for the right purposes. If you are upset, confused or have a serious issue to resolve, pick up the phone or walk down the hall and have an honest two-way conversation. Do not use each stroke of the keyboard to brush issues under the rug. Remember, email can be either a terrific or horrific tool. It all depends on how it is used. Be careful!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s honest communication tip in honor of National Honesty Day (April 30)!

Did this tip help you? We welcome your feedback at info@stevengaffney.com or 703-241-7796.