Email is an inescapable part of today’s business world. Here’s how common sense and good manners can help you use it to build solid relationships.
Many of us spend a good chunk of our days using email for business communications. You may not realize it, but the way you correspond through emails can either build relationships or promote friction. Think about emails that made you feel happy, energized or even angry. Email can be a powerful tool for building relationships with the people you work and do business with. Here are six ways to make it work for you:
1. Do write a draft and review later
You want to ensure you convey the right points and tone in your response. Write a draft of the email with your key points and come back to it a few hours later. Setting your email aside allows you to review the information in a more objective way. If you’re still unsure about the email, ask a co-worker or someone you trust to review it and give you feedback. This will ensure your emails are collaborative and not combative.
2. Do remember your tone
Emails are very subjective. You may write an email with the best of intentions, only to find out you’ve offended your reader. Keep your tone light and positive. ALL CAPS reads as if you are shouting, so avoid using them in your email. Sentences such as “You will…”, or “You must”, or “If you don’t…” appear as ultimatums which may cause your reader to feel defensive. Instead, try using phrases like “My recommendation is…” or “You may want to consider” or “This can help you by…,” which get to the same point but in a much more positive way.
3. Don’t respond in anger
Suppose you receive an email that makes you feel angry or/or upset. Don’t be quick to pull the trigger and respond right away. Responding when we’re upset or angry clouds our judgment and may escalate an already tense situation. Remember, it’s harder to repair damage than prevent it. Instead of firing off an emotional reply, review the email and digest it. Take a step back so you can think about the situation more clearly. This will give you an opportunity to plan your approach. Having a clear head and thinking things through builds your skill set and demonstrates maturity.
4. Do know when to pick up the phone
While emails are great, it’s important to know when they aren’t effective. Many people get stuck in the “email loop”: long threads of emails going back and forth to the point where the dialogue has nothing to do with the original email. A standard rule is: If can’t get your point across in three emails, it’s time to pick up the phone or schedule a meeting. Sometimes it’s easier to have a conversation to get your message across than to try and document it in an email. This builds relationships by fostering collaboration.
5. Do keep your emails concise
Have you ever opened an email and been confronted with a full page of written text? Too much content overwhelms the reader and most likely results in your email not being fully read. Keep your emails concise and to the point. If you have a large amount of content to communicate, consider sending some of it as an attachment. Your readers will appreciate this approach.
6. Do say thank you
Collaboration is all about working together. If you are reporting that your project has been launched or a deadline has been met, take a moment in the email to acknowledge those who helped you. It lets those who work with you know you appreciate their time and effort. Acknowledging good work and collaboration not only demonstrates maturity and professionalism, but also fosters good working relationships and creates a fun and positive working environment.
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