Get Out of Your Stories
Emails are dangerous because of the gap in communication elements. No tone, no body language, no context.
As humans, our first instinct is to create a story to give us perspective on the message. This is how we decide our boss is fuming mad when we get a one-liner email.
Or, how we decide Susan has too much time on her hands when she sends a four-paragraph email, the first and last of which are more like engaging in small talk.
If you aren’t in face to face dialogue with the other person, you really don’t know.
Here are 5 easy steps for successful email communication.
1. Stop with the stories
Take the actual message for what it is. If it’s not clear or context and perspective matter to your next action, clean it up first.
Pick up the phone or go see the sender. Don’t be the person creating this week’s office drama because of a story you made up because you were too lazy to get the facts.
2. Know Yourself
Take 5 minutes and look at your inbox.
- What details about the emails you process each day make it more or less likely you’ll engage?
- What makes it easiest or hardest for you to take action?
- Whose emails do you like most and whose do you like least? Why? (other than you just don’t like the message/data they’re sending)
For example, I personally like emails with the specific required action stated first and a bullet point list if necessary. Support or background info is OK, and I want it last with the option for me to simply call and discuss versus read pages of info. No need for long openings. Just be clear if multiple people are on the email, who you expect to do what.
Now, share your preferences with coworkers. It’s sort of like giving them the rules of the game to play most effective with you. Any shift in email communication to help your efficiency is a win in the challenge of finding more time in your day.
3. Know Your Audience
People communicate differently based on personality, culture, organizational role, type of relationship, etc. One size does NOT fit all. This doesn’t mean you’re changing who you are—it means you’re being strategic and not using a hammer on a screw.
Take time to understand the people you email most often. Ask their preferences in email communication.
Yes, actually ask what they do and don’t like when communicating via email.
You might be surprised what you learn. Some people get offended when you don’t include “Hi John!” or “Good morning Jill”. Others get annoyed with anything other than bullet points, to the point of not even reading most emails typed in paragraph form.
Again, it’s like reading the rules of the game for communicating effectively with your team. Understanding how to communicate in a manner that is most effective for each person you frequently interact with sets you and them up for less typing and more action at the same time helps us avoid the dreaded stories mentioned in #1 above.
Tip: Usually, the higher up in an organization someone sits, the less time they have for long emails. Generally, getting to the point first and fast is key.
4. Set the Standard
Set standards for email communication. Now that you’re out of you’re stories, you understand your email needs, and you understand those of your team, take it to the next level. Set some agreed upon standards for your team so that everyone synchronizes.
Consider the following:
- How long is too long for email and should be a call or discussion?
- What is an urgent form of communication? (guessing email won’t be it though it may be a part)
- Are attachments preferred or is it better to send links for cloud stored files?
- Who really needs to be cc’d and on what?
- Complete sentences or bullet points?
- Acceptable response time?
5. Bonus: Strengths in Your email Communication
If your team hasn’t taken StrenghtsFinder or has and it’s gone nowhere, Trybal Performance can help.
If your team has taken StrengthsFinder by Gallup, you have a huge opportunity to further your Strengths-Based Ecosystem. Ask each of your team members to consider their communication preference in terms of their Strengths. Uncover those filters, adjust as necessary, set the standard and get more efficient!
Understanding individuals’ Strengths on your team provides valuable insight into how they each filter communication. Strengths is like an expressway for your team to Understand Thyself, Understand Team, Get Out of Stories, and Move to Action!
Example: Note my preference shared in #2 above. My top 5 Strengths include Analytical and Achiever. These drive me to seek details for understanding in order to take action.
I prefer very specific, clear instruction and supporting data provided in a way this is direct, to the point, and efficient. I don’t need long introductions and closings, in fact, they slow me down with distracting information.
My team knows this and doesn’t read stories into what I put in or leave out. As much as possible, emails come to me in this style which speeds up my ability to respond effectively and efficiently. We all win.
Make sense? Take action and share with your team, your boss, your peers. Discuss at lunch or happy hour today. Doing nothing is choosing to accept what you’ve already got.