Have you ever looked back at your “Sent Items” for the day and been blown away by the number of emails you sent? Have you considered your communication carefully in the eyes of the receiver? We are bombarded by phone messages, emails, instant messaging, texts, InMail, Facebook messages, and more. Communicating well in a voice message or written message could not be more important especially in the world of so much high-tech communication.
Here are my tips for not just getting results from these communications, but being respectful of the recipient’s time and attention.
1. Prefer the recipient. Use whatever method of communication they prefer. Don’t email someone who requests a call, unless you try to reach them by phone and leave a message first. Certain people are just better in-person. Choose to meet with them whenever possible. For a high-tech person, consider text.
2. Be politely persistent. Most people are not trying to ignore you. They are just up-to-their elbows in stuff. Sometimes you have to catch them at the right time. If one mode of communication does not work, try another.
3. Don’t communicate to clear your to-do list. Sending the email or leaving the message just to shift something off your plate is often a mistake. Instead of sending five emails to the same person to move things off your list, save it for your next in-person meeting, or consolidate it into one action based email. Don’t contribute unnecessarily to the inbox or voicemail flood. Your communication will get more attention if it is always organized, valuable and helps the other person succeed.
4. Recognize that electronic transmission is not perfect. There are any number of reasons why your email, voicemail or text may not get to the recipient. Try another method if you don’t get a response.
5. Be positive. People like positive messages. Stay positive, have some fun, and find ways to make them smile!
6. For tough problems prefer an in-person meeting or a phone call. It is easier to convey empathy and caring in-person.
7. Set the tone by being nice. Words on a page are sometimes just not enough. Even in business communication, use emoticons if helpful to convey your tone. Be careful, sarcasm and dry humor can get you in trouble. Greet people in a friendly tone, just as you would in person.
8. If you would not say it in a face-to-face meeting, don’t say it in writing. If you think you might be on the edge, try saying it out loud or reading it to someone before sending it.
9. Be specific. State specifically the outcome you would like. Use phrases like, “if all of this meets your expectations”, “to keep things moving”, or “would one of these dates work”. Leave a voicemail or written message that keeps things moving.
10. Book it. If you are trying to set a meeting, suggest some time frames that will work. Consider whether your email or voicemail has the necessary information to book the appointment with just a single response from the recipient.
11. Ice it. Consider holding that frustrated email until the next day. I find that if I do this, most of the time, things look different in the morning. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it at all, sometimes the exercise of writing it helps truly shelve it for the night.
12. Be certain. Take a hard look at removing maybe, likely and probably. These words make you sound indecisive and lacking confidence.
13. Take Action. Make the question or action requested prominent. If you are requesting a response, make it easy to identify and don’t bury it in the body of the email. Make your desired game plan clear.
14. Avoid the multiple recipient pitfall. Make sure your purpose in including people is clear. Sometimes requesting action and including five people means you will get nothing because everyone on the list expects someone else to do it.
15. Don’t use a canned signoff message. If you include your thanks, sincerely, or respectfully in your signature, people you email often will know, and recognize that it isn’t really sincere. Take just a little extra time to type it and think about how you want to express your signoff.
A few tweaks in the way we communicate can make a big difference. Quicker responses, less inbox flooding, and more respect are all for the having. What is your best email tip or pet peeve?