I love this famous quote that has been credited to numerous people from Mark Twain to Marie Curie: “I am sorry this is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” When it comes to emails, long messages are easy—the short, effective ones take more effort. As an entrepreneur, you need to know how to communicate effectively.
Self-discipline is necessary in your online communications. Always ask yourself: What do I want to say? Is it clear? Does it need a lot of detail? Am I specifically asking for what I want from the recipient?
No matter how talented you are behind the camera, you have to be able to get your message across in your written correspondence, and that requires a totally different set of business skills. So, how can we best communicate in a fast-paced, virtual world where there is so much competition for your reader’s attention? Below are a few tips that will help you be heard, understood, and respected when sending emails.
Use specific subject lines
A meaningful subject line is the key to getting your message opened and read. Just like a good headline catches your attention, this premium space can help your message stand out. When replying to a message, change the subject line and give a short overview of what your email is about. Never hit Reply and send an email that looks like this: “RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Travel Plans.” Instead, change the subject to something more like: “Confirmation of flight LAX – NY” This makes it easy for the other person to know what it’s about and that the contents are important.
I am often shocked at what some people put in writing. Be aware that jokes and sarcasm don’t translate well and are breeding grounds for misunderstandings. If the recipient doesn’t know your cheerful personality or sense of humor, they will most likely take what you write literally no matter how many smiley faces and LOL’s you include.
Here is a personal tidbit: During an online dating conversation, I asked a suitor who lived a significant distance from me how he would handle that very LA problem. His response: “As long as you do most of the driving…” I eventually found out he thought it was funny, but he came across as a jerk and I quickly lost interest.
Be clear and concise
It’s easy to get lost in an ocean of details and explanations that you think are helping paint the picture. But remember, inboxes are overflowing with important messages so your best bet is to stick to the facts. What information do you need to get across right now? Numbered bullet points work very well because the recipient can easily see what needs a response or action and you’re more likely to get a faster reply. If you receive an email with numbered bullets, follow the same 1-2-3 sequence to address the points in your reply.
Don’t “Reply To All”
This is a huge no-no and something that drives me crazy. Personally, I believe over-using Reply All or CC All is a sign of weakness, bad organization, and sloppy work ethics. Work out the details with those who are specifically involved BEFORE you send a group email! Plus, there is nothing more annoying to me than a string of meaningless responses like: I agree, kk, See you tonight, Let’s have fun, Thanks for doing this. Always question if your reply is necessary before you hit Send.
Of course, you may prefer to remove yourself from the email inbox competition and make a phone call instead. Don’t forget there are also tricks for communicating well over the phone. You can find some gems I wrote about here.
The goal of any communication is to create understanding. But, the challenge many people overlook is that we need to help the recipient by eliminating potential confusion and clutter. When you communicate well, you build relationships and gain trust. And trust, of course, is a key ingredient for successful collaboration.