A common question I get in many of my trainings is: “Amy these skills are great for face2face communication, how do I apply them in email?”

Whether it’s emailing, texting, blogging, chatting or instant messaging – electronic communication (EC) is the norm across all aspects of our daily lives, so we need to ensure the receivers understand exactly where we’re coming from!
With body language and voice (2 elements of traditional communication) being eliminated, the chances of miscommunication are significantly increased!

While we’re at it, let’s add a few other communication obstacles, such as the danger element (anyone guilty of texting while driving??), or sending an impulsive email response, laced with sarcasm to a much deserved idiot, or texting whilst cooking and organising the children!
All of the above can be a recipe for disaster!

One of my favourite miscommunications was an email exchange I had with my sister Sheila who had once lived in Singapore. I’d heard Singapore was a great place to buy electronics so I considered buying a computer beamer (overhead projector) while on a trip there a few years ago.

I sent Sheila (now living in Canada) an email that said, “Hey Shel, do you think buying a beamer would be expensive in Singapore?” She wrote back and said, “Hey Amy, since Singapore is an island, they have really strong restrictions and high taxes on car imports so I think a BMW would be extremely expensive.”

Here is a person I have known my entire life, with whom I shared the same cultural up bringing and she interpreted the word ‘beamer’ to mean a BMW! (On another note, I’m still astounded by her open-minded attitude of not telling me I was crazy for wanting to ship a car from Singapore to Switzerland!)

In order to maximize the receiver getting the message you intended, here are some useful guidelines for communication in email:
Make the layout of your communication easy to follow:

  • Use bullet points or lists where appropriate to give/ask for information
  • Use short sentences
  • Keep paragraphs concise
  • Finish with a list of call-to-action items, where appropriate

It’s also a good idea to maximize your likeability within email communication – not many people respond well to a robotic list of questions and action points…

  • Start with ‘Hi’ vs. ‘Hello’
  • Use an informal tone
  • Use contractions (I’m instead of I am, we’ve instead of we have)
  • Personalize your greeting and signature

And when you’re in an email exchange that may feel delicate or heated, be sure to avoid the following:

  • The word ‘but’ (for more on this see newsletter 4)
  • Sarcastic tone (did you REALLY think that was a good idea??)

To stay on the right side of your colleagues, family and friends, it’s worth injecting some friendly Partner skills into your emails!  You may find your emails being read and replied to more rapidly or that you receive a pleasant and positive response!
Give it a go and remember to let me know how it goes!
Happy Partnering!