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Following Email Etiquette

Following Email Etiquette

    In Simplifying Your Information Intake, we looked at strategies to reduce the amount of email you need to deal with, and how to deal with what’s left much faster. Anyone who undertakes the task of clearing out their inbox for good and getting a handle on their email habits inevitably discovers that the biggest reason email is plaguing so much of their time is the amount of unnecessary or badly written email being sent their way by others.

    Here at Lifehack we like to help you become more productive, but there’s something to be said for helping others become more productive – after all, if you can make the life of your coworkers, friends and family a bit easier, isn’t it more likely they’ll return the favor?

    So, in this article we’ll look at the email etiquette that you can follow to inspire world peace and harmony and end famine. Email can make life so much easier compared to the inconvenient snail mail or the inefficient phone call, but it can also be the source of all sorts of stress. Perhaps if everyone followed these guidelines, the world really would be a happier place!

    Use Descriptive Subject Lines

    Well-crafted, descriptive subject lines are essential to being able to process email quickly. If you have to open each email just to figure out what it’s about, you can’t prioritize their responses as efficiently. While you might think the email you’re sending is the most important for the recipient to reply to, it may be way down the list for them – they know what they need to get done with the most urgency, so let them be the judge and state plainly what the message is about.

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    Ask yourself if you’d understand the purpose of the email based on the subject heading alone before settling on one, and make sure it is concise, clear and scannable. Don’t use awkward phrasing or unusual words, because they take more time to re-read and understand, hence increasing the amount of time it takes your recipient to process the message.

    Brevity is Your Friend

    Have you ever received one of those emails that never seems to end? The one that goes on for pages and pages, yet by the time you finish you feel like you’ve learned nothing?

    Have you ever sent one?

    I bet the answer is yes on both counts. We’ve all received them, and we’ve all been guilty of sending them at least once or twice before. But there’s also the serial ramblers who do this every time they hit the Compose button.

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    In 90% of cases, email that is more than a page long is too long. Unless you’re explaining complicated concepts or providing detailed instructions (because they’ve been asked for or need to be communicated for a reason), then get back to the core of your message and communicate it quickly.

    In my experience the kind of person who sends an opus for each email is the kind of person who assumes everyone is less intelligent than themselves or feels the need to explain completely irrelevant things. For instance, if you’re a graphic artist, you don’t need to explain the techniques used to create an image for a client when you hand over the work. They don’t care; that’s why they hired you instead of figuring it out for themselves.

    But Don’t Be Too Brief

    Context is important; when you deal with email all the time, it’s easy to forget what you’ve sent out in the last few days. When people remove your message from their reply completely, or fail to include key details in a message, confusion ensues and more back-and-forth is required to sort it out.

    When replying to messages, clip off as much of the previous email as you can while keeping key sentences quoted in your reply. Ensure you provide contextual details that may seem self-evident to you, but not to the recipient – this is especially true when you’re emailing lecturers. Your course is not the only one they teach, most of the time!

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    Don’t CC if You Don’t Have a Reason

    Ah, the terminal case of misplaced carbon copies. Before you inflict this painfully irritating malady on someone, you’ve got to go back and have a good look and ask yourself if it’s necessary. From experience, I’d say about 90% of messages I’ve received where I’m not in the To: field but the CC: field were completely and totally useless to me.

    “Just keeping you in the loop” is a frequent reason given for doing this, and while there are sometimes cases where this is a good idea, for the most part you shouldn’t send someone an email unless you want them to take action on it

    Reply-All Isn’t Always Necessary

    Someone asks their whole mailing list for advice. The whole mailing list uses reply-all to give said advice. You get the pleasant surprise of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of totally unwanted emails. Reply-all is there for a reason and can be useful, but it’s yet another feature of email that’s rarely used for any good reason at all.

    Whether the boss sends you and three other guys an email asking what time the serial bus arrives (I’ve read too much Dilbert) or your 13 year old niece/daughter/cousin/sister has sent out yet another chain mail and you want to tell her off, don’t use reply-all. Don’t punish anyone more than they already have been!

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    Use BCC for Bulk Mail

    Speaking of little girls who make liberal use of the forward button, if you absolutely must send a bulk mail to your address book, always, always use the BCC field. It’s a basic privacy measure and not only prevents your recipients from receiving endless spam as a result of your carelessness (who doesn’t already?), but shows your recipient you have respect for their privacy and some intellect.

    I always feel somewhat more amicable to a mass-mailer who has bothered to use a BCC, even on an internal email.

    And, of course…

    Don’t Use The Forward Button

    The good old forward button. Whenever you receive a once-in-a-lifetime offer to have your love interest call and ask you on a hot date, it’s the forward button that lets you send it on to fifteen people and have it come true. Sounds like something you do often? In that case, I really hate you.

    If it’s not chain mail, it usually boils down to another case of “just keeping you in the loop” that’s not usually necessary; don’t bother unless someone requires the specific information in the forwarded message to complete their job.

    Email can be a massive waste of time. Help others cut their email time down and you’ll inevitably spend less time on it yourself.

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

    Reference

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