Communication of any type is always open to interpretation. Even face to face conversations are influenced by body language and other factors. Email is perhaps the most prone to misinterpretation as there is no auditory tone nor physical delivery. It’s just text.
So before you fire off an email, especially one that contains potentially tough information, here are four key To-Do’s BEFORE sending to insure that your intent is understood and accepted the way you want it to be:
#1: Know the Climate
You’ve got to know the climate into which you are sending your email. Is it friendly, hostile, or indifferent? And you’ve got to take responsibility for this environment. Ask yourself, if I’m him/her how would I react to this message? What would I intimate from it? Is there a deeper message here? You need to know where your reader is relative to your message. Will they still understand the “you” you want them to understand?
#2: Link Your Purpose to Your Reader’s Purpose
Often what you want and what your reader wants are two different things. By starting out with their purpose, you show your empathy. For example, if you want someone to stop procrastinating with an issue, initiate your message from the value moving it forward will have to them. What this does is it credentials you as an empathetic individual, reminding them that you are there to help achieve THEIR goals.
#3: See Their Reaction Before Their Reaction
You can do this. First, visualize how they’ll read your email, what they’ll think, and how they will react. Then, write it based on this visualization. Once you’re clear on how they will react, make sure they can self-realize your positive intent. If you see too many ways in which the message could be interpreted as counter to your intention, start over!
#4: Tailor Your Next Response
Yes, just like a chess match, know your next three responses from this communication. The more you understand your reader’s world, the easier it is to determine how they will respond. Remember, you are not communicating to yourself; you are communicating to another person with a different agenda than yours. Are you ready for resistance? What do you believe it will be and what will be your reaction? Conversely, are you ready for acceptance and have your next steps lined up? This level of anticipation will increase your agility, building your reputation as a valued partner.
Try out these tips before your next difficult communique and let me know how it goes. At the very least, you will feel better as you send it, eliminating some of the anxiety that might have accompanied it otherwise!