Most of us send and receive an ongoing stream of emails throughout the day, most of which are back-and-forth workaday communications. But every so often, we’ll have to write one that literally gives us pause.
With no way around it, we’ll have to relay a message – whether to a colleague, a higher-up or a prickly in-law – that sends our shoulders northbound and staggers our breathing. If you’re faced with this situation, here is our advice:
1 – Take a deeeeep breath
And remind yourself to keep on breathing 🙂
2 – Flip the script
If it were the other way around, what would you like to hear? For the sake of argument, let’s say you screwed up – and let’s face it, we all do. Ask yourself: if you were the email recipient, what would you like to hear? Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes before banging out an email.
3 – Ask yourself: what’s your main objective?
As the magnificent Mary Poppins taught us, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” Remember Mary’s advice if you’re about to serve a potential bitter dose of medicine.
Do you need to gently remind a colleague that you – not them – have ownership of a project? Do you have a client who changes her mind every other day, two steps forward and three steps back? Or perhaps you’d like your adult children to know that you’re no longer willing to host all of the holiday meals?
Whatever the case, put a positive spin on it! You simply want the optimal outcome, the best possible product and a truly enjoyable holiday meal!
4 – Set the tone
At some point in time, we’ve all been on the receiving end of messages along the lines of, “I run the show and you will do as I say.” Honestly, is this approach really conducive to achieving any objective? We think not.
Nearly always, the how is remembered far more than the what. The late, great Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” With this in mind, reflect on the right tone to achieve your objective.
And while we’re at it, a word about capital letters. As most – but trust us, not all – people know, THEY MEAN THAT YOU’RE YELLING. Never use them unless you mean it, and try not to mean it!
5 – Write it, read it, revise it. Repeat the last two steps. Then wait.
Say what you have to say, re-read it at least twice and if possible, wait a while before sending it. Never be afraid to speak your truth, but remember that emails last forever like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstoppers, so don’t be in a rush to hit that “send” button!