Things to consider before you even create that Email Message

 
Hand Pressing Email Before you press send

Take a few seconds before you start to create that Email message.  By considering a few factors, it may change not only what you put in your Email, but also the need to send the Email entirely.

Email is easy.  Real easy….

You can just hit the “compose” key....

Do a brain dump of ideas and information....

And then hit the “send” button....

Done!

That was easy now, wasn’t it?

In fact, Email’s ease of use and simplicity can often be its Achilles heel.

As a result, you end-up sending Emails that are poorly worded, disorganized, or just plain unnecessary.

So, before you even create that Email message or hit the “Compose” button, here are some items to consider.

  • Purpose of message
  • Relationship to sender
  • Number of Topics
  • Are Emotions involved?
  • Should I use Email?
  • Should it be documented?

They will help you to focus your thinking as to what to put into the Email.  In fact, after some quick reflection, you may decide not to even create that Email message at all!

Now, let's review each of these in a bit more detail.

What is the purpose of your Email?

  • Are you just sharing information with others with no action required on their part?
  • Are you confirming something or providing a response to a question?
  • Are you trying to influence or persuade someone to your viewpoint or trying to change their opinions?
  • Are you asking someone for information or assistance?
  • Are you requesting someone to perform a specific action for you?

You need to ensure that your Email message expresses your purpose clearly and effectively.

What is your relationship with the recipients?

  • Are they your superiors, senior leaders, or customers?
  • Are they peers / co-workers?
  • Are they your direct reports or those assigned to assist you on a project?
  • Is it a “mix” of recipients?
  • Are you on good terms with the recipients or is the relationship more tentative and difficult?

Depending upon your relationship with the recipients, you may have to vary your wording and tone for the audience.

Are you combining too many topics in one Email?

  • Are you combining too many different topics in one Email message?
  • Multiple topics are likely to confuse the recipient.
  • It will also result in a swarm of responses to the various questions.

If possible, compose separate Emails for each key subject.  That way, you can respond to each message individually, with the appropriate information, and in the respective time-frames.

Are you angry, mad, or emotional?

  • Don’t put something in a message you are likely to regret.
  • If you are angry or upset, take time to cool off before responding.
  • Sometimes, it is best to draft an Email but not send it.  Then, go back the next day and read it again.  You will likely be glad you didn’t send it!
  • If you need to respond to a difficult situation, get someone you trust to review it before sending.

As always, consider a phone call or face-to-face instead of Email to resolve sensitive, difficult, or potentially hostile situations.

Is Email even the appropriate communication media?

  • Is the topic complex and resulting in multiple back-and-forth Emails?
  • Is it involving personnel issues or a sensitive topic?
  • Is there the potential that the message may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the recipients?

Although Email is effective and easy, to use it is not always the best type of communication for these types of interactions.

Is this something that should be documented?

  • By putting something in Email, you are making a permanent record.
  • Email is neither private nor entirely secure (except using secured Email).
  • Business communications can be reviewed by your company, and are “discoverable” in a lawsuit.
  • A mistake in a recipient's Email address, or failure to remove specific names when replying, can result in Emails going where not intended.

Some topics and matters should not be in written form, at least not without careful, prior legal review.  So don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to be made public.

I do like Email.  It’s not the enemy.

It is when we misuse Email that we run into trouble.

So next time you are going to create that Email message, consider these items first.  It may change the nature of your Email, or even your decision to send an Email entirely.

Do you follow a quick check-list before composing an Email?

Are there any other items you have on your list that I missed?


Here are books to help you learn to communicate effectively: