According to a study by McKinsey & Company, people spend 28 percent of their working week reading and replying to emails. However, despite the risk of becoming overloaded with messages, it remains one of the most powerful and efficient communication tools. Email allows workers to stay connected with team members, customers and in particular those who are spread out across a wide geographical location.
What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Although using email is quick and easy, many emails are ineffective, create the wrong impression, sending the wrong message or even damage the reputation of individuals and companies. The internet is full of examples of common mistakes people make with an email from poor grammar to terse and even offensive emails sent in the heat of the moment. Who hasn’t been either the sender or receiver of one at least once?
A 2005 study found that people often incorrectly assume that the recipient of their e-mail will correctly get their intended tone. Senders estimated nearly 80 percent accurately interpreted the intended tone when in reality it was only 56 percent of the time. This is due in large part because when we don’t know the story, in this case, the tone, we make it up and most of us always imagine the worst.
Email has become so ingrained in our daily life that we tend to take it for granted and as a result, become lax in the way we use it regardless of if we are writing one or reading one. Before anyone ever even thought of a thing like an email, if you wanted to tell someone something you could either communicate in person, pick up the phone or write. And while the latter would seem similar to email, the act of writing or even typing a memo and then sending it required time which more often than not caused us to pause and think about the words we were using and the intention behind them.
As the world and our ability to communicate continues to move faster and faster we must step back and use a common-sense approach and that means thinking before we hit send because once it is gone there is no taking it back. The best thing you can do before hitting the send button is to hold that thought by:
- Save it as a draft and then step away. Return to it later and re-read. This gives you the opportunity to look at what you have written from a new perspective.
- Get a second look. Have someone else read what you intend to send before you send it. How do they perceive what you have written, how does it make them feel?
The simple act of not hitting send right away can save you a lot of embarrassment or misery and allow you to convey a message with professionalism.