Develop Good Communication Skills

Lesson 3/6 - Email Communication

 

Develop Good Communication Skills

 

Lesson Info

Email Communication

So, let's talk about how to use that written word, effectively and well. The most common written communication, that most people use, in a professional context, is email. It is, in many ways, the currency of today's business communication environment, it is the thing we exchange, the most frequently. Some employees, in certain industries, are responsible for sorting, and processing, anywhere from 100, to 300 emails a day. I'm on the lower end of that spectrum. The vast majority of it, is absolutely irrelevant, to what I have to do. Within that irrelevant information, is some of the most important communication, that I can possibly... Interact with. The heart of what I do, happens through email, in many, many ways. It's what set me up, to be here today. It's how I'm gonna talk about the next book, that Emily Post writes, when it comes time, to reach out, to our agent, to our publisher, to the people, that are gonna help us do the research. Email is so, so, so important. What's the first...

thing I think about, when I think about email communication? I think about timeliness. I know, I see, (exclaims) and I'm a, the fight or flight response, I'm a total flighter. I avoid that email. I don't wanna respond to it. It goes, it sits in my doc, it's, there are days, I have to make myself go deal with it. Oh, that relationship got difficult! I didn't invest in as much as I want to. Oh, I'm gonna wait, to respond to that, 'til I can really give it the attention, that it deserves! (sighs) I'm sitting here, thinking right now, actually, about my email to-do list. 'Cause, a lot of it, is more than 24 hours old, and that's my suggestion, for a timely reply, to email. Different communications have different rhythms. A natural rhythm, for email communication, is about, reply within a day. If you can, if you can bounce emails back and forth, within the day that they're received, people are gonna really appreciate that. This is one of those areas, where I challenge myself. I mention those emails, that are on my to-do list, that I think about, right now, as I give this advice. I will also tell you, that I've gotten much better at this, that I respond to emails, in a much more timely manner than I used to, and I hear from people, about it. "I really appreciate how quickly you got back to me!" It's even starting to become part of my professional reputation, and this is something that used to be a real weakness of mine. Timely reply, it's really important. You might not be able to get back to it, within the same day. Try to get back to it, by the next day. Oftentimes, it happens. You get an email, you can't deal with it that day. But, if you get it on your to-do list, I know, that there are productivity experts, who will advise, that you don't do email, first thing in the morning. I think it's actually a pretty good tip. Take that long-term project, that thing you really wanna move forward, do it before you sit down, to do your email, because email can absorb a chunk of your day. And it will take as much time, as you give it. But, try to get to it. Try, to make it something, that you do in the morning. Another tip, for managing productivity, with email, is that you don't respond to every alert, that comes in, but just block out your response times. A good friend of mine, who used to manage a lot of paperwork, told me, that the way he was able to do it, was by only touching a piece of paper, once. If he picked something up, he dealt with it, and then moved it out the door. So, things didn't stack up around him, on his desk. I'm gonna encourage you, to try this technique, with email. Wait, to check email, 'til you have the availability, and the time, to reply, even briefly, even quickly, and try to move through as much of it, as quickly as possible, one touch. It's gonna help you, with the timeliness of reply. So, for the flighters, like me, it's about staying committed, getting responses back to people. For fighters, for people that fire off quick, in impulsive replies, let it breathe, for just a second. Give yourself 10, 15 minutes. Reread it, have someone else read it. But, still try to get it out, in a reasonable timeframe. Second tip, be really careful, with To and Subject fields. I had a co-worker, whose husband's name, was Dan. Last name began with S. She had to type five letters, to correctly direct an email, to me, instead of to him. They had a lovely relationship. I knew a lot about it. (group chuckling) With auto-fill, in a lot of our communication, it's really easy, for your computer to be smarter than you, about who something's going to. Particularly, somebody you communicate with, a lot. That's the caution about two. The courtesy, around use of the Subject field, is a little more particular. The advice is a little more specific, 'cause it's about being specific. In this world, where we're all asked to sort, and chronicle, an incredible amount of information, to decide, what's important, and relevant to us, to process it, and to be able to access it, in the future, moving forward, the courtesy of tagging, or cataloging information, in a way, that's useful for people, is an emerging courtesy, that I recommend you strongly participate in. Have the Subject line, describe and define what happens in the body of that email well. I don't recommend all-caps. I know helps a good scene. You can still write, using case-sensitive language. Be careful, with Reply, Reply All, the Carbon Copy, and the Blind Carbon Copy. I think, I get brought into some organizations, to talk about communication etiquette, just to deliver this particular point. People get really frustrated, with the overuse of Reply All. Think about who communication needs to get to, and have the courtesy, of not sending information to a lot of people, that don't need it. The use of the Carbon Copy, and the Blind Carbon Copy, is also a little more specific. It's a little bit like the To and the Subject field. This is where you need to think a little bit more, and you need to be intelligent about how you use these two devices. The Carbon Copy is obvious. When you want multiple people, to receive something, and you want them to know about each other receiving it. The Blind Carbon Copy masks the email addresses of some of the people, who are receiving a reply, or an initial communication. You wanna hold yourself accountable, to the standard of honesty, with your use of BCCC. So, if you're using it, to protect the email address of someone, that doesn't want their email shared, great use of BCC. If you're including someone's boss, or supervisor, without telling them, because you wanna hold them accountable, in some way, bad use of BCC. If it's devious, or deceptive, or you don't want someone to know, that someone else has received it... Use that standard of honesty, to decide what's appropriate. Has anyone encountered the moving you to BCC phenomenon? Yeah, describe it for me, just a little bit. Well, it has happened, both, with the example of the, putting the manager on the BCC line, to avoid that, but the moving you to BCC, is to sort of keep your abreastly informed of what's going on, but you're not the name, that people are associating with it. Yeah. I think of it as a courtesy, that's emerged around making email introductions. Oftentimes, someone will send an email, introducing two people to each other, and then, once those two people start exchanging emails back and forth, one of those two people will take that initial person, and acknowledge to them, that they're being moved to BCC. It essentially gives them one more chance, to see a communication, before, as the replies go back and forth. That person is, now, no longer being asked, to witness, or participate in that conversation. Is it courteous? Is it impolite? Depends on how you use it. Sometimes, its a real form of courtesy. It's like saying to someone, thank you so much, for the introduction. You don't need to supervise this discussion any longer. We'll take it from here. As long as the person knows what you're talking about, that works great. I've heard from people, who say, they feel like they've been now closed out of a conversation, or they didn't understand what was going on. There's not a particular answer. It's a... A new move, in the Internet world, in the world of email communication. It's not necessarily deceptive. In some ways, it's very forthright. It's very honest. There's not a single answer, of whether it's courteous, or not. But, just know what you're doing, and know how you're using it, so that you can be intelligent about it. It's still important, that you proofread. For grammar, word choice, and spelling. We live in a world, where our computers can help us do all of these things well. There's never been less of an excuse, for bad spelling, grammar. Write in complete sentences. Don't let text speak creep into your email communication. Is lol, laugh out loud, or lots of love? Means different things, to different people. You wanna be clear, in your communication. You wanna be understood. Emoticons will add emotional content, to some communication, if you have an established relationship with someone. Use emoticons, to add that emotional content, to email. If you don't have that established relationship with someone, give yourself a chance. Don't confuse them. Do these little hearts, mean they love me? Does it mean, they love the information? I don't know the difference, between this kind of smiley face, and that kind of smiley face. The all-caps is something, that I think most people know about. It's shouting, to write in all-caps. It's why I say, avoid it, in the subject line, unless it's really something you wanna shout, at someone. Most people know, to avoid use of all-caps. I also like to warn, or caution, about overuse of exclamation points. For text communication, with your friends, absolutely! Exclamation point all you want! I love you! Capital I, capital L, capital Y, exclamation point, 10 times! For business communication, or correspondents, say it, with your words. I'm so excited, to be working with you. Doesn't need four or five exclamation points. You might like the emphasis. I've heard, from a lot of people, who don't like it so much. Think about the perspective of those other people. Respect their sensibilities, as well as your desire, to show enthusiasm. Thinking about other people's sensibilities, think about familiarity, and formality, particularly in your business communication. One of the places, that you really set a tone, for the familiarity, or the formality of an email, besides writing in complete sentences, with words, that are spelled well, without using text speak, emoticons, or exclamation points, is your use of salutations and closings. So, the most formal salutation, the most formal way, to open any letter, or email, and email is electronic mail. These are little letters. That's the origin of this technology, and the way we talk about it, so you treat 'em like little letters. Dear, Mr., or Ms. So-and-So, that's the dear, with the title, and someone's name, is the most formal way, you can open a letter, or email correspondents. You wanna have a range of options in front of you. So, let's descend down that scale of formality. Dear, and someone's name. What's formal, than dear, their title, and their name? Just their title, and their name's, more formal than just someone's name. Hello, and someone's name. Hi, and someone's name. Just their name, just their initials. Comma, return, return. I email, with my cousin, Lizzie Post, all the time. I don't always write, Lizzie Post. I don't always write, hi, Lizzie, or even Lizzie. Sometimes, I just write, LP, comma, return, return. We have a long, and established relationship, but I still like to acknowledge her humanity, at the start of email exchanges, with her. It turns, what follows from, a demand, into a request. Into an acknowledgment of her humanity. That opening is really, really important. Once the email exchange has started to bounce, back and forth, oftentimes, those salutations and closings fall away. Let's talk about options, for closing an email. What's the most formal way, to close a letter? What's the word, that instantly comes to mind? Best, I'm gonna say, sincerely. It's probably your most formal option, but best regards is a close second. I think, regards, is a pretty formal language. So, best regards, regards, all the best, best, just by itself. That's sort of your formal scale, for most business closing. For social correspondents, warmly, affectionately, yours truly, with love. Don't try those, for business, unless you work in a family business, with a spouse, who would really love to hear those things from you. And even then, maybe think about keeping the separation, between family and business... Concrete and explicit. What's the biggest mistake people make, with their closing? They build it into their signature block, so that it's perfunctory. A lot of people use thank you, as a closing. I'm gonna suggest, you wanna give the thanks the weight it deserves, and get it up into the body of the message. You don't wanna close, with a perfunctory thank you, and your name. I've heard, from a lot of people, who think, that this is a little bit, well, perfunctory is one word, but that, sometimes, it even feels like an assumption, that the thing is going to be done. So, dear, so-and-so, I'd really appreciate, looking forward to this! Thank you, me! I know it's not usually intended that way, and I know a lot of people, who are very courteous, very polite people, who use thank you, as a closing, because they really mean it! They wanna say thank you, at the end of just about every communication. But, I think that we want to keep that expression of gratitude, something that's significant, and we want to avoid, even the appearance of it becoming perfunctory, even if it's meant, with good intent. Give that thanks the weight it deserves, get it up, into the message. Even, just give it its own line, and then use a closing, that's one of those traditional, recognizable closings. Again, once that email chain starts to develop, once it starts to bounce back and forth, those salutations and closings often fall away, it's not a huge cost, to using them. LP, comma, return, return. Before I start writing, it takes me almost no time. In fact, it takes me about the same amount of time, as just starting to write that thing, that I was gonna write. Once you get familiar, once you've got a certain vocabulary and language, for salutations and closings, they're relatively easy to employ. They add a level of formality. They, both, will change the way people see you. It will also change the way they respond to, and interact with your communication. I've been thinking a lot, about texting, and the informality, that people feel, around texting, as a way to communicate. I think, that that informality comes from the absence of the salutation, or the closing. We've talked, in another course, about the importance of introductions and greetings. We've also talked about the importance of partings, the way you close, or finish communication. With a text message, there is no greeting, or closing. There is no acknowledgment of the beginning, or the end. So, it becomes eternal, it becomes ever-present, it becomes... Omnipresent. And, in some way, it's very intimate, or intrusive, in that way. This is a lot of work, to talk about email communication, how to make it appropriate, and to give an appropriate level of formality. Think about texting. Think about the intimacy of it, and try to use email, where you're protected. You're also protected, by that public record, of that communication, in the work that you do.

Class Description

Written and verbal communication skills are a big part of good manners. Every email you send, voice message you leave and conference call you attend provides you with an opportunity to shine or stumble.

This course addresses classic business communication etiquette as well as new rules and customs for the digital age, including best practices for email, smartphone use, and voice and video calls.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid the most common writing mistakes in both content and character.
  • Make your communications polished without seeming too stiff or formal.
  • Write a great thank-you note.
  • Choose between public and private communication.
  • Use email and smartphones effectively and courteously.
  • Host and participate in conference and video calls.

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