Despite many online project management tools and business-related chat programs, email still reigns supreme as a method of professional communication. It can be surprising, then, that we often struggle in conveying emotionally intelligent messages when using this medium.
The reason is because, while most of our communication is through language, just as much of it comes from eye contact, facial expressions and hand gestures…None of which can be read through an email.
Here are some points to keep in mind when emailing colleagues, clients and managers:
Communicate the same as you would in person.
Simple. No need to be overly formal, unless you speak formally with this person face-to-face. Remember that on the other side of that screen is someone reading your email in your voice. Let your tone represent you.
Many times, it’s easy while writing to let your emotions flow through the keys. Whether you are stressed, angry or upset, do not hit send if it’s not something by which you want to be remembered. When we’re talking face-to-face with people, we are generally more disciplined in our behavior, because any backlash will be immediate. When tapping letters onto a screen, though, sometimes we say things that could be taken the wrong way, or we’re a little too free in our expression. Again, remember that there is someone on the other side of that screen reading your message loud and clear.
If you picked up the phone and called someone and that person answered by getting right to business instead of with “Hello, how are you?” you might find that to be a tad rude. The same goes for email. Begin your conversation with a friendly, or formal if that is your choice, greeting. It can be a simple “Hey,” “Hello,” “Good Morning,” or “Dear.” Sometimes it helps to wish that person a good morning, or ask how his or her weekend went. A little politeness can go a long way.
Another way to show friendliness can be through using emoticons. Some may frown on this, seeing it as unprofessional, so make your judgement based on how casual this person is toward you. Because you don’t have facial expressions to help show your meaning, sometimes emoticons can help do the trick. There are many who find them useful when the message could otherwise be easily misinterpreted.
Pay attention to your tone.
Your voice determines how you are heard, or, in the case that someone is reading your message, your voice determines how you are understood. It’s easy to lose track of how you are being read when you write in a hurry. When you can afford yourself the time, go back to reread your message and reflect on it. Is your personality shining through? Some people may only know you through your email voice, so double check that it’s the voice you want it to be.
Keep these points in mind when you’re writing your next email at work. It may even help to pay more attention to how you are coming across in your face-to-face conversations. Take notice when you ask about someone’s day, or realize how eloquently you handle a stressful conversation in person, and then apply that to your writing.