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Texting and Email Secrets:

How to Create a Positive Response to your Emails, IM’s and TM’s While Reducing your Chance of Flaming or Being Perceived as Rude

How can you insure that your messages are read the way you intend them to be read? How do you make sure someone doesn't think you "flamed" them or you don't send a message that affects your relationships?

You might think, “hey if body language helps wouldn’t those little smiley and frowny icons help?” Well, research done by Walther and D'Addario on these emoticons (2001), found that smileys had no effect on the way a message was interpreted. Though frowns did reduce the positivity of positive messages, which I don’t see making email any more negative, as very advisable!

So what can you do to avoid flaming? Here are some guidelines:

Decide whether to email or not to email: If the message is emotional a face to face conversation is your best bet. Your fall back, if your recipient is in France and your passport is not up to date, is to phone and talk to the person. Though, if I were you, I would get a rush job on the passport and take the guy or gal to a little café I know in Paris, ply them with a good glass of Cabernet and start talking.

Computers and other text messaging sources were originally designed for data, not human emotion.  I remember an undergrad typing the holes in computer punch cards to code my messages; you don’t want to punch holes in your recipient. Well most of the time you don’t. 

Don’t send a criticism via text: Please just don’t do it.  If you think you are saving time and or stress by texting that kind of information just think of the time and stress you might spend trying to recover from a miscommunication. You don’t want to meet your friendly HR person with the, “I thought it would be quicker to email” line.

Send the email to yourself: Don’t start and important email by putting a person’s email address in the "To" line. Put your email there instead. That way, you’re forced to stop and think a bit. You also will not take the chance the email will “accidentally” get sent before you have had time to read over it. If you put your email address in the “To” line, you can send it to yourself first. Then, read it as if you are receiving it and you are more likely to see the email as they would. That insight and empathy could be a life saver.  

Read over the email out loud: If you’re putting a lot of expression in your voice, guess what? They need your voice to understand your true feelings. Ask yourself the “face to face” question.  Would you ever truly give this message face to face? Would you want to receive a message like this?

Personalize the greeting: There is research on the effects of names on messages that show, it increases the softening effect. So make sure you say, “Dear Carl” or “Hello Carl” or just “Carl” but no matter how informal you think your corporate culture is, use the recipients name so you don’t sound cold.

Start with something nice:  Rather than launch into a request or question and sounding abrupt or rude, ask a question or make a comment of the, “nice weather we are having” variety, or more personal if that is appropriate. Treat the person as a human being first. It only takes a single nice sentence to soften most text messages.  

Type your emotion, your nonverbal behaviors or use emoticons:  Real smiles are the best communication. But something is better than nothing.

Avoid robotic speech: Don’t get all cold and detached in an effort to “Stay Professional.” Be warm, to be perceived as more empathetic.

Avoid Viking attacks; don’t sneak a night attack email in. You know what I mean. Don’t wait till’ after 5 PM to send that scathing message to avoid the face to face interaction.

Always say you’re available to talk: Make sure you add a note that you can answer questions and clarify anything. You should encourage people to pick up the phone and call you or come on down to your cube for a chat.

Leaving off your signature: Always close with your name, even though it is included at the top of the e-mail, and add contact information such as your phone, fax and street address.  The recipient may want to call to talk further or send you documents that cannot be e-mailed. Creating a formal signature block with all that data is the most professional approach.

Just about now you may be thinking, “I know who I am going to email this article to.” Remember talking face to face works more effectively every time.


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