You write an email and send it to its intended recipient comfortable in the knowledge that your message has been received. Then you wake up the next day to find that the content you attempted t convey resulted in a misunderstanding of epic proportions. You wonder how things could have turned so bad.
The reason that so many emails fail in their goals of effective communication is that so many of us simply have bad habits. We assume way to much, we rush the email, and we don't let our email make decisions for us.
Here are three ways to fix those issues with your email communication.
Don't assume knowledge
It is not true that we all have the same understanding of every topic. I've been a web developer for 10 years what seems easy to me is hard for many other people. If was was to write an email to a customer and assume they understood all the technical terms I could use I'd have a failed email before I even hit send.
Even ignoring the technical words I could use, the job of my clients is not to do what I do every day. They are not specialists so what I find to be very basic information simply has never occurred to them. If I was to jump in to their field with two feet I'd be in the same boat, much of what they would assume is basic information would simply go over my head.
The best test is to read the email as if you're reading it to a child. Maybe not a 2-year-old but how about a 10-year-old. Would a 10-year-old you know have a reasonable chance of understanding what you just wrote? If the answer is yes then it's much more likely you've been able to accomplish your goal of successful communication.
A second big reason we fail in communication is that we don't take the time to effectively read what has been sent to us. Our client asks 4 questions and we totally miss number 2 because we were scanning through the email as fast as possible.
Yes your inbox has a lot of stuff in it, but each item deserves your full attention. Take the time to read the email fully. Then write your response. Now go read the email again and your response. Do they make sense together? Did you answer all the questions asked? Did you answer the implied questions?
Yes this second look before simply sending will take you longer, but it's also going to decrease your email. The client isn't going to need to email you again asking about a question you missed.
Saving 30 seconds while rushing easily turns in to a lost 5 minutes later as you have to deal with the same set of topics again. Even worse the client doesn't feel like you really are invested in their project.
You didn't even bother to read their email carefully.
Make a decision
Your communication with your clients shouldn't be the next great novel. It should not be a viable replacement for the cinderblock holding up the car outside. Effective communication is concise. It gets to the points quickly and provides action for your readers.
One great way to do this is to send your emails with a decision already made. If your client has the option of A or B tell them why you think A is better in as few words as possible then say:
"If I don't hear from you by tomorrow I'll do A."
Yes pick an appropriate timeframe but the point is to make a decision instead of writing down a huge point and counter point argument between the two options. Your clients are paying you for your expertise so give it to them.
This simple statement also sets the expectation that the client doesn't have to respond which means you don't have more things flooding your inbox.
If you want less email and more effective communication then put these 3 tips in to practice. Stop assuming knowledge, stop rushing through your email, and start making decisions and setting yourself up to take action.
Doing this will make you a more effective communicator and free up your time from the onslaught that faces most inboxes.
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