It’s a simple fact: humans are predisposed to acts of communication that are far more emotional than functional. It is easy to get yourself worked up over something you read in an email, respond immediately, and then half an hour later reread the same email and realize that you overreacted.
Reading email is tricky. So much of how we take things has to do with our mood at the time. In our part 1 of the emails, we discussed how to write an email and keep it professional and communicative. In part 2 and beyond, we have to really take a look at how we read and respond to emails.
According to the 2011 Radicati Report on email statistics, the average corporate user sends and receives up to 105 emails per day. For more information on this report, check out http://bit.ly/1hi7x4H .
While this statistic may sound astounding, in reality that number is probably pretty low for the 2014 amount of traffic. In our society today, we are bombarded with emails from the time we open our eyes in the morning. My smartphone receives email…and is my alarm clock. That combination makes staying away from email nearly impossible. It also allows me to read email at less opportune times, which can result in a negative reaction on my part as the recipient.
One of the easiest ways to deal with this is to realize that you must, must, MUST read an email at least three times with a fair amount of time (think 10 minutes) between each read before responding. Another good tip is to read the email out loud (pending that it’s appropriate to share) and see if the others interpret that the same way.
I typically try to use this rule of thumb: “I’ll do it later”. I don’t treat emails like I treat phone conversations or even IMs. I treat emails much like I treat voicemails and snail mail. I respond, within 24 hours, but I don’t allow myself to respond right away unless it’s something very cut and dry where emotions can’t mess it up.
Some examples of these cut and dry email responses would be RSVPs to meetings, “Hey can you send me that file?”, “Want to do lunch today?”, “Happy Birthday Megan!” and so on. If it causes an emotional response other than polite response, or absolute gratitude or joy, I don’t respond right away.
If it’s something that could impact my whole day, my week or my five year plan, I always make sure I don’t respond right away. Why risk the regret? Chances are, even if the person marked it as urgent, you have a few hours to get back to them.
To recap: basically, if it’s not a conversation I can have on the way to the coffee machine in the morning, I don’t respond right away. Better to take the time, re-read the emails and then determine what you want to say and how you want to say it. Often, it’s the in the time away from the email that you will develop the perfect response that’s both poised and appropriate. Email is a tool to help you communicate, and by setting some limits and developing a sense of what you want to say, how and when to say it, it can be a great one.
If you have questions or concerns, or would like more information or assistance in dealing with your emails or any form of professional communication, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Megan Cole, Educational Coordinator, The Leader/Leaders After Hours