I've watched some people struggling with some email blow
ups and frustrations over the years and I was just thinking about some
of the ways I've developed to avoid them. I am not going into the best
salutation or the best conclusion but more touchy-feely things. Here are
- Write the email as if it might show up on the front page of the paper tomorrow morning.
Because it might. Or it might be forwarded to the wrong person. Or you
may accidentally send it to the wrong person. Worse, to a long mailing
list of the wrong people. Don't include anything that you would be
embarrassed or worse, ashamed, to have to explain.
- Realize that the other person may not have the same email habits as you. They
may only check emails once a day. Or they might receive 200 messages
per day and habitually not answer many of them. They might even have a
hard time typing (yes there are some.) So don't be offended when you
don't get a response when you think you should have gotten one.
- Keep it short. People skim and scan. Don't tell
your life's story. Focus on what the outcome is that you would like of
the email you sent and indicate that up front. Or if you don't expect an
answer, then sometimes it is helpful to say that too ("No response is
necessary") Write your email like an article in USA Today. Start with
the most important thing and go from there. And make it short.
- Remember that you can call or talk face to face. For
most delicate, personal or heavy topics, it is often better to talk.
This is self evident and yet I often see people who should know better
opting for an email and getting into major fights, misunderstandings or
hurt. And even if you go down the email route and things seem to be
spinning out of control, remember you can still help by switching to a
phone call or face to face conversation.
- Be careful about public forums, mailing list and Facebook. Remind
yourself about all the people seeing your sarcastic comment or ironic
statement or personal attack. Without the context and the relationship
who knows what impression they get.
These guidelines may or may not apply for you. I learned them through personal experience and have the scars to prove it!
Pito Salas is an Entrepreneur & Adjunct Professor at Brandeis University. He was also a Co-Founder & CTO of eRoom Technology. You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog located here. You can also follow Pito on Twitter (@pitosalas) by clicking here.