Want Better Email Communication? Read Them!
Do these scenarios seem familiar to you?
An email is sent. A response occurs. A few more response emails filter in afterwards, and then it’s evident – all parties are not on the same page. Each person is coming away with differing views of the subject, and all the while the answer is usually right under their noses…
…in the body of the original emails.
When it’s finally discovered that there is no meeting of the minds occurring, someone – usually the first person to send an email, will respond with something along these lines:
“As I said in the first email (with a copy of the original text)”
“If you refer to the attachment I sent…”
“The email I referred to below says…”
And the list goes on.
What are some of the reasons for people not “getting it” during email conversations? Here are some answers:
- People scan and don’t read
- Emails don’t make sense and solicit confusion
- Assumptions made on the little information given
- Questions are not asked fully to clarify the messages
The main driver of these reasons is time. In a modern workplace where it’s not uncommon to receive hundreds of emails daily, being able to read, respond, and react is greatly disrupted by the overwhelming influx of information pouring in and the limited time to process each and every email.
One of the most effective ways in combating this is to actually take MORE TIME to review emails you read, and send, before submitting them or replying to them.
If you spend an additional minute per email to read carefully and understand what is being said, it would actually cut down on responses to defend, clarify, or submit more information, and save every recipient time as well.
Consider what an extra minute would mean in these approaches to your emails:
- Keep it short – Don’t write long emails. People read emails like they do webpages and periodicals – they scan. Understand that others are as time crunched as you, and keep your messages brief and to the point.
- Format emails for easier reading – Write short 1-2 sentence paragraphs, bullet point, boldface and highlight the pertinent information you want everyone to understand, so they can quickly pick up the message accurately.
- Read before sending – Before you send any email, read it and see how the recipient would interpret this. It may mean major editing or writing a new email. The goal of emails is quick communication, not finishing a task to quickly check off and go the the next email. Make sure what you say can be understood.
- Read before thinking – Don’t assume you know what’s being said before you read. Make sure you carefully read any incoming messages before you draw a conclusion. Many times people make assumptions only to find later when they re-read the email that they were off base. Ask yourself when reading “what is the other person trying to convey here?”
- Think before answering – Take an extra minute to think your response through. Does this email need a reply from me? Why am I answering this email? Do I understand what is being said here? Do I need to answer right away, or can I mull it over for the afternoon? Resist the temptation to make quick replies.
- Eliminate distractions – While not always an easy task, depending on your physical work environment, this can help process information as well. Taking an extra minute is a critical step if your workplace is noisy, congested, and disruptive. You’ll need that to focus and filter out the background noises.
While taking some extra time on the front end, these steps will minimize excessive email chains, time, frustration and poor communication. They will save everyone time, resources, and wasted efforts in the long run, and help get people more connected instead of driving communication wedges in between.
How can you take an extra moment to affect better email communication?