Email Stories

When writing emails, it is easy to forget that we are writing very small stories. We dash off an email and hit send without a second thought and then wait for the response.

Emails can turn into long stories or (importantly for business), conversations. They can also turn into dates, relationships, marriages, jobs, contracts and many other things. Sometimes the turning point in an email conversation may be way, way down in the history of your correspondence. And because we are not always close readers, it can be easy to miss the change in tone (for better or for worse), or some piece of sarcasm that has been read too literally. Don’t get me wrong, email has changed my life, and I could not do the work I do without it. BUT it does have pitfalls for all of us.

Guy Kawasaki has penned a neat checklist of things you should remember when writing an email. Check it out here. My favourite is "Chill out". He suggests that you wait 24 hours before responding to a "pissy email". My approach (after taking a few deep breaths) is to write my response and save it as a draft. Then I come back to it a day later to see whether I still feel the same way.

This works for two reasons. One … it allows you to articulate your own response in the heat of the moment. This allows you to capture the emotional energy of your response at the time of reading. Two … you often miss links in your story when you respond in this way. If you do want to win the argument, you will do so by considering your approach first and then crafting a response that covers all the bases.

Also, remember, the person sending you the email has probably given their own email a great deal of time and consideration. If they want to give you a kick (or if they want to praise you), they will want to make sure it works … give their response the time and focus it needs. Email has one great advantage in that you CAN respond when you are ready — so take advantage of the opportunity.