Recently, I received an email from a colleague who had not taken the time to write the email properly. I responded by explaining that I was confused and needed clarity. I didn’t hear back from him for more than a week. When he finally did respond, he gave a quip and unhelpful response without answering my questions or explaining anything further. I could only surmise that he was in a hurry and didn’t really read through his email to me or my response to him.
Had we been sitting in the room together discussing the issue, this would never have happened. He would have been a lot more focused on me and how he was presenting himself.
As pastors and leaders, it is important we pay attention to WHAT we communicate via email as well as HOW we communicate it. I have made it a habit to follow these four email best practices. I recommend you give them a try.
Four Steps to Communicate Kindly in Email
1. Reread the email before you hit ‘Send’.
It’s super easy to do, and well worth the time. Just read it one more time. Eight times out of ten I bet you’ll find something that wasn’t clear and tweak it. You will never regret taking the extra time to reread an email before clicking ‘Send’, but you will sometimes regret when you didn’t. You can’t ‘take back’ an email!
2. Keep it to one topic.
I’ve discovered that people (myself included) are often guilty of just skimming an email before replying. If I try to address 2 or 3 issues in the same email, sometimes the reader will only respond to the first issue, leaving me hanging for the rest. Try to keep emails to one topic at a time – and include the topic in the subject line. If you have three separate things to say to someone, send them three different emails. It might seem a little weird and redundant – but it works!
3. Respond within 24 hours.
Waiting two, three or more days to respond to a legitimate email is the equivalent of ignoring someone while they are talking to you. It creates unnecessary drama and for some people it is quite offensive. Responding to the multitude of emails you receive each day can be daunting. If you know you can’t properly get back to someone right away, try replying with a very short note saying something like, “I’d love to get back to you on this, but can it wait until next week?” Bottom line, don’t leave people hanging!
4. End with a genuine sign-off.
We are all familiar with the typical boiler-plate sign-offs included in email signatures, like, “Sincerely,” or “Thanks.” Although this is common, it is also fairly impersonal. An extra 10 seconds for every email can turn your detached and sometimes inappropriate sign-off into a friendly one. I don’t say, “Sincerely,” to my wife, but I might for a formal letter to a company. For many of my friends and colleagues, I often close with “Be Blessed!” or “Blessings!” Sometimes, the most appropriate email sign-off is, “Thanks so much!”, “I really appreciate it.”, “Great job” or even, “Have a fabulous day!” Whatever it is, why not make it unique for every email? It will set a positive and authentic tone to the end of your conversation. Another idea: include the person’s name as well, “Have a great day Tim!”
What other email habits would you add to this list?