Patience is not one of my strong suits. It serves me well in the heat of production to be comfortable to make quick decisions and to act on instinct. And I am usually right.  But I do have some ground rules. 

I have learned (yes, the hard way), to never respond to an email that elicits an ‘emotional’ reaction, or a complex answer on impulse, or as I might rather call it, with efficiency. Best case scenario I can afford to sleep on an answer, or go for a walk in the park.  If not, I get up from my desk and wander around the office for a bit.  We are so trained to answer immediately, be it because we feel it’s expected – the 60 minute rule – or be it that we desperately try to stay ahead of the curve on our in-boxes.  We’ve all come back from a meeting or lunch break to the mother-load of all inboxes.  That’s the moment we are thankful for the few spam messages that eluded the filter.

The challenge of course with ways of indirect communication is that, there are no sensory clues as to what the tone of the communication is. Smiley faces only go so far and are only workable with a small set of people in a professional setting. 

(Interestingly enough, and as a side bar, I had a conversation with a friend who’s the mother of a severely autistic, non-verbal young man and she explained to me that Facebook was a god sent for her son. He could communicate without having to physically interact and be able to read between the lines or pick up on non-verbal clues of people’s expressions.  He could also communicate when he was ready and at his own pace.)

Emails that are of the ‘emotional’ note, I make myself read several times and I try my best to take the message out of MY context and put it into the context of the person who sent me the email.  What do they want out of this communication and what was their reality at the time? Sometimes very basic things play a big role.  Is it the end of a very long day, or week? Is someone nearby chomping loudly on an endless chewing gum AGAIN; is it a gloriously sunny day out? You get the idea. I find myself re-reading my emails to make sure I’m being very clear in my tone and communication and I can only hope that my sparring partner does the same. When in total doubt I take the conversation to the phone.  

On an email request that takes a moment to fulfill, I will shoot back a quick note of acknowledgement. We all have spam filters that love to eat emails that are NOT spam and very once in a blue moon an email goes by the wayside and I find nothing more annoying than having to click on “confirm receipt” boxes that pop up in my in box, when all I want is to quickly read through my mail, so I won’t do it to others. 

Most people read long(er) emails very sloppily, incompletely or not at all; especially when they first ‘scan’ it on a cell phone and then do not re-read it on a full screen. I often do send very long emails out with lots of information that (I think) is pertinent – my crew might beg to differ.  What I have started doing with great success, is to bold key words and bullet points also work well.  This allows for a quick scanning of a polite, fully verbalized email, without having to read, as I’m sure the crew calls it, all the crap in between. 

What are your rules of (email) engagement?

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