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Email Communication Blues | Tips for Recovering Your Sanity
Submitted by Leslie Allan on July 27th, 2010
Email is a wonderful tool. Don’t get me wrong. Our business just could not get by without it. It’s quick, it’s flexible with how you want to format the message and with what you want to attach, and it’s accessible.
What bugs me is the lack of instant feedback. When you speak with someone face to face, you can see immediately if they are getting your message. If they are looking the other way or falling asleep as you speak, you know straight away that you aren’t getting through. And then you can take steps to help your message find its target. You can give the person a nudge or offer to speak with them later when they may be more receptive.
You can also gauge how they are feeling about your message. If they are laughing, then that says one thing. If they suddenly start looking distressed, that says another thing. You can then adjust your message to get the outcome you want.
But what if you send your important email and you don’t hear anything back for three days? Did they get your message? Did they get so enraged by it that they immediately hit the delete button? You just don’t know. What can you do about this lack of feedback?
The first thing I do is to make sure that my expected action is clear. If I want someone to call me, I say just that: “Please call me on xxxx xxxx”. Notice that I even spell out my phone number so that they do not need to go searching for it. If I need the response by a certain date or time, I make that clear as well. Are you making your expectations clear in the emails you send? In spite of how direct my message may be, some people do not respond as I expect. To fix this, what I have been doing for quite a while now is to keep an email correspondence list on the office wall closest to me.
When I send an email for which I need a response, I update my list. I check it daily for who has not responded. If someone hasn’t responded, I send them a gentle reminder. That way, important tasks won’t fall into a black hole, never to be seen again. Don’t do this for every email you send out. Do it only for the emails that are important for you to get a response.
Even after sending several reminders, in some cases I don’t get a response. Oh well! I guess that person didn’t want to carry on the conversation. Those cases are usually where someone has committed to an action that I am following up. My only wish is that those people at least pay me the courtesy of telling me that they do not want to do what they promised. Do you deal with people like that from time to time?
Email is both a curse and a blessing. Which aspect dominates for you will depend on how you treat it. Perhaps by making your emails action orientated and by creating and maintaining a correspondence list as I do you will see more of the former than the latter. What tips can you share for making email more productive? I’d love to hear from you.
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