By Darryl Budge
Writing a friendly, respectful and efficient email in all situations can be difficult. Absent of facial expressions and body language, every written word determines tone and mood.
Remember that people are more responsive – both for good and bad – according to how you say things than to what you actually say.
Here is what NOT to do :
? Responding way too robotically
Be as respectful as a face-to-face meeting would require, while being extra careful that your words lack tone. Express a personal greeting like "Hi John" (e.g. on launch of an SMS conversation). Write "thank you" rather than "thanks". Avoid a negative tone by correcting errors non-emotively: avoid saying "No" or "you're wrong". Write "that's good/better/best" rather than the vague "fine", which can mean 'good' or 'I think you're stupid'.
? Responding too briefly
Avoid responding extremely briefly to a detailed email, e.g. "Got it", as you may appear apathetic or sarcastic. Balance the sender's effort against the effort you put into your response.
? Habitually sending reply-all messages
Address group emails (CC and BCC) only to individuals where it is necessary and helpful. Imagine speaking your email in a face-to-face meeting with every recipient: would they all benefit? Don't waste anyone's time with matters you wouldn't share with them face-to-face.
? Habitually criticizing via email, avoiding personal effort
Sending emails that consistently criticise or major on failings overbalances the positive emotional ratio required for healthy relationships. Cushion criticism with support, and remember that delivering a balanced message via phone or in-person is always more effective. Before sending, give yourself a five minute check-up on whether your emotions have over-heated.
? Flagging URGENT or IMPORTANT or saying SORRY without a phone call
To avoid sounding demanding, a big-bad-boss or discourteous, call someone first if possible before sending that "urgent" or "I'm sorry" email. Not calling or meeting personally can show a lack of respect for their time, effort or the seriousness of your blunder. Give up a few moments of your own time to call, or say sorry face-to-face and your relationship will be much more valued by them.•