Do Your E-mails Communicate Your Intent?
“A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it”– Alistair Cooke
In the last twenty-five years, e-mail has certainly become ubiquitous in your personal and professional lives. You send e-mails to grandma about your kids. You send e-mails to notify members of your homeowner association about the upcoming meeting. You send e-mails to colleagues over the divider, in the next town, or across the country.
As a speaker, you send many e-mails to speaking leads, new clients, and people who inquire about your speaking services. Your e-mails have either a positive or negative effect and contribute mightily to whether your business is successful or not. Therefore, it behooves you to carefully craft your e-mails so they convey to the reader messages you intend and not messages you do not intend.
In this newsletter, we will explore how lack of body language and tone of voice hampers your communication, how getting another person’s opinion on your important e-mails is good practice, and how leaving the e-mail in draft and them coming back to it at a later time provides you with a different perspective.
No Body Language, No Tone of Voice
In last week’s newsletter, I talked about communication experiments performed by Dr. Albert Mehrabian (1939-), Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He says there are three core elements in the effective face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes: nonverbal behavior (facial expressions, for example), tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the spoken word.
Drawing on the findings of two experiments he conducted in 1967, he formulated the 7-38-55% communication rule. The 7-38-55% communication rule says the contribution of nonverbal behavior (facial expressions, gestures, etc.), tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the spoken word to the effective face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes are 55%, 38%, and 7%, respectively.
Here is your dilemma when you communicate through e-mails. Since you cannot convey body language or tone of voice in your e-mails, according to Dr. Mehrabian, 93% of your communication has to be carried by the words you use which normally convey 7% of communication.
It means the words you use in your e-mails and the order of those words have to carry the full burden of your message intent to make up for the contribution to your communication of your body language and your tone of voice which do not exist in your e-mails.
You and all of us have blind spots when we are communicating through e-mail. You should always think, “What do my words and the order of my words communicate in my e-mails.”
It is very difficult for you to see hidden and unintended messages in your e-mails. With all the e-mails you write and send, you and I know your world would come to a complete stop if you had to have someone else review all of your e-mails for hidden and unintended messages.
This being said, you can prioritize your e-mails so that there would be time for someone else to review drafts of your most important e-mails before you hit the “send” button.
Show the E-Mail to Someone Else
When you were in high school writing papers on various topics, you usually had one of your parents or someone else review the term paper before you handed it in because you knew the paper was important and you wanted to make sure that it says what you want to the reader. The same applies with your important emails.
If you have a business, your e-mails affect your bottom line – your business revenue. If your e-mails are well crafted and your message is clear, your business revenue will probably go up. If your e-mails are not well crafted and your message is muddled, your business revenue will probably go down.
Again, I am not saying this for all your e-mails, but for the important ones, and there should just be a few, you should have someone else review your e-mail. Tell the reviewer what your intent is, have them review your e-mail, and then have them tell you whether the e-mail conveys your full intent and the intent of your message or not.
Some of your e-mails may put its readers on the defensive. Whenever I have to send an e-mail on a ticklish subject, I think back to what Dale Carnegie says in his famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Preface what you are saying with, “I could be wrong, I often am . . .” This brings down defensive walls when the reader reads your e-mail and puts them in a better frame of mind to respond to your e-mail.
One final thought on this subject. Avoid using the word “but” if you can avoid it. The word “but” signals to your e-mail recipients there is something coming after the word “but” they will probably not like. Readers will become defensive if you use the word “but.” Try substituting the word “and” for the word “but.” It is much less of a “hot button word” than the word “but.”
You now know that the actual words in your e-mail have to shoulder the burden your body language and tone of voice would otherwise carry. You also know it is always a good policy to show someone else your e-mails before you send them. However what should you do when you don’t have another person to review your e-mail? Read on to find out what to do.
Put Your Draft E-mail Aside and Then Go Back to It
A best practice for clearly conveying your intended meaning in your e-mails is to leave the composition and review of your e-mail and do something completely different for a few hours. You might be surprised coming back to your e-mail after a few hours away from it will give you a new and fresh perspective so you can revise your e-mail to make your intended message clearer.
For example, I write these newsletters somewhere between Thursday and Saturday. I then leave it for a day until Sunday at which time I review them completely and make some changes for the better. Invariably, I see words I can change to make the newsletter clearer and emphasize my points better. I then post it to my blog.
There is something magical about leaving a writing project for a few hours or a few days. When you come back to it, you will always see words and paragraphs you can improve. Of course, as the saying goes, there will come a time to “fish or cut bait” and hit the send button.
You know now it is not possible for you to use the two biggest tools in your communication toolbox in your emails – your body language and your tone of voice.
You also know now why getting another person’s opinion on your important e-mails is good practice.
Finally, you know now the benefit of leaving your e-mail in draft and them coming back to it provides you with a fresh and new perspective to make your e-mail message clearer.
Your e-mails are a large part of your communication. They will greatly affect a coveted relationship, your business, and other parts of your life. It behooves you to spend enough time to review your important e-mails to ensure your intent is clearly conveyed to the reader.
If you don’t, your business competitor will and reap its benefits!
Call to Action
Take the time to prepare your important e-mails carefully. The words in your e-mail have to carry the heavy burden of your body language and your tone of voice which do not exist in your e-mails.
Tell someone else what the intent of your important e-mail is, have him or her review the e-mail, and then have them tell you whether your intent was conveyed or not.
For your important e-mails, leave your draft e-mail for a few hours or a day. When you return to it, you will give have a new perspective to improve your e-mail.
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”– Dale Carnegie
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