Email That Can Derail

Email has become an indispensible communication tool. The general advantages of email, if used effectively, are that it's convenient, efficient, cost-effective, mobile and portable, and leaves a record of decisions and the process undertaken.I also prefer email in that it gives me time to adequately consider the information and do any appropriate research in order to provide my best reply. Contrast this to phone calls where many of us often feel put "on the spot" to provide an immediate answer or, have to sheepishly, ask to call the individual back.Email, however, does have its own unique set of disadvantages. Like most tools – if used properly, email can be very useful. However, if the tool is used incorrectly, it's far too easy to hurt yourself or others. Here are my top five observations of how email can, unfortunately, derail its advantages of a trusty communications tool:
1. Type without the gripe
As tempting as it is to respond in haste and with unbridled emotion and adrenaline to messages that may rub us the wrong way keep in mind that, in most cases, you cannot ultimately hide behind the anonymity of your computer screen.Studies reveal that over 98% of emails received at work are from people with whom you have a personal or working relationship -not a chance meeting; not an acquaintance, but a relationship – meaning you have worked with them for while in the past and will likely work with them for a long time in the future; that is, unless, you irreparably harm that relationship by not thinking, not breathing, not taking a "time out" before you hit send on a flippant (at best) or insulting or threatening (at worst) reply.
If an email message has you really charged up I suggest typing a reply to yourself first. Then, do not read that instinctive reply until, at least, an hour later.It's amazing what an hour will do to show you the error of your ways.If a reply must be sent sooner ask a trusted co-worker to have a look at your response and even have them edit it for you so that you send a "sober-second-thought" reply.
2. If in doubt check it out
A lot can be conveyed in a few short sentences. Unfortunately, a lot can be read into those few short sentences that weren't intended by the writer.Despite our best efforts reading comprehension on the other end isn't always as good as it could be. Also, remember that email cannot pick up tone of voice or body language so even the most innocently intended of comments can be negatively misconstrued.Keep this in mind when writing your messages.Likewise, keep this in mind when reading your emails; especially from people with whom you happen to have a very good personal and working relationship.If anything seems out of order or out of character from your perception in reading the message pick up the phone and call them for clarity.Chances are very strong that you are misreading the email or misinterpreting the intent of what was written.Eat a piece of humble pie. Give the writer of the message the benefit of the doubt and simply pick up the phone to politely ask if what and how you are reading the message is exactly as intended.
3. Respond directly to the sender
For whatever reason some people feel the need to involve others in their cause.Maybe it's an embedded playground mentality where I'm going to get my biggest friends to back me up in our dispute over whose marble was closest to the target. I have seen emails go back and forth among colleagues and negotiating leads that, all of a sudden, one of the parties end up copying everyone else in their address list.Why? I don't know other than to speculate this person, all of a sudden, is employing the CYA principle (covering their "butt"), seeking sympathetic allies or, willfully trying to embarrass the other party knowing full well there is a long string of candid and confidential comments within emails that were previously sent back and forth.Calling for "back-up" by cc'ing others who previously weren't attached to the original communications is one sure-fire way to not only derail the email dialogue but it is also a guaranteed way to break down the trust that you have worked hard to establish with the other person.
4. Respect others' time (and inbox limits)
As I type this tip I hear the Kettle calling me. I'll fess up and say that I may rely a little too much on email from time to time and sometimes write a little bit more than needed. Of course, sometimes, the extra lines I do write are often in effort to assure my full, complete and accurate tone and message are conveyed and received by the reader.That written, it truly is important to get to the facts of what is most important to the reader and what you may need in return. Of course, be sure to soften your message with a genuine salutation and, possibly, a short, positive personal note, as you would with any in-person exchange.
Not only is it important to make your messages short and to the point, but, also be respectful of other peoples' inboxes. It may be tempting to share that hilarious video montage of monkeys dressed up as bankers but it may jam up recipients' servers and inboxes, thus blocking other important messages they need to receive or send… the slide show of funny road signs they're trying to send you!
5. Reply promptly
An extension of being respectful of other's time is to respond to messages as soon as you can.I am not suggesting that you quickly respond like Pavlov's dog immediately upon hearing the "you've got mail" bing bong from your computer. In fact, as noted, I strongly encourage you not to do that.Also, do not let emails derail you from your focus on other work related priorities.Finally, don't respond until you are able to provide considerate and well thought out answers to any questions that are asked in the email. In fact, be as proactive as you can and provide any responses to further questions you can anticipate that your reply may generate. However, with all this in mind don't procrastinate on a reply or allow the message to get lost and ultimately, not responded.No matter our workplace, our job or position we are very much intra and interconnected across all our relationships.Your prompt response is often vital to the senders' ability to perform their job.