Many of us use email to connect with the people in our lives. In many workplaces, emailing is a necessary part of the job. Although emailing can be an easy and efficient way to deliver information, there’s a risk the messages will get “lost in translation.” This can happen because the non-verbal cues that help clarify the meaning are missing.
Here a few tips for emotionally intelligent emailing:
- Avoid misinterpretations – be aware emails can easily be misinterpreted without messaging cues like tone of voice, facial expression and body language. We can read a lot of interpretations into them, like the underlying tone and nuance of the email message. When writing about sensitive topics, consider the perspective of the recipient and imagine how they’ll perceive the message. If you’re unsure about possible misinterpretations of your message, ask someone for another viewpoint before sending the email.
- Know the limits of written humour – the recipient of an email can’t see your grin or hear your laugh when you mean something to be funny. To help avoid misunderstanding in these cases, you might indicate you’re not serious by adding “grin,” “LOL” or a smiley face icon after the comment. Better yet, consider rewording your message if you think there’s a chance the recipient might be offended.
- Know when it’s better to talk in person – avoid using email for sensitive or complex topics. When an online exchange becomes too emotional, too significant or simply too difficult, it’s better to pick up the phone or talk in person.
- Be careful with confidential content – always ask yourself whether the content may be too confidential to send by email. Messages can get lost or intercepted by hackers. Also keep in mind other people, like supervisors, co-workers or family members, might also have access to the intended recipient’s email.
- Be aware of the “disinhibition effect” – without having the other person in front of us, we may not worry as much about their response. This can make it easier to offend someone online than in person. Before clicking “send,” always ask yourself if you’d have the courage to say the same things face-to-face.
- Never send an email in anger – when we’re angry, we generally don’t think as clearly and act as appropriately as we should. It’s a good idea to calm yourself down before you send an email. You can save your email as a draft and read it again later. Once your emotions are settled, you’ll be in a much better state to evaluate your message and edit it if necessary.