Have you ever sent a detailed email addressing multiple items to which you only received a one-word reply? Or perhaps you’ve received an email that you felt was sharp or short, leaving you wondering whether the sender was upset?
When considering the importance of effective communication, emails are often overlooked. This can be a problem since the average employee sends over 100 emails a day. The number of emails sent or received daily by the typical corporate employee is expected to rise to 136 by 2017 from 121 this year, based on projections released last November by the Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., market-research firm.
Understanding the prevalence of ineffective email communication, I was enthusiastically receptive when a reporter from the Wall Street Journal asked to interview me for their recent article “Email Enigma: When the Boss’s Reply Seems Cryptic”. Following an engaging hour-long interview with the reporter, Sue Shellenbarger, only a brief highlight was included in their article. Since this is such an important topic, I thought I’d follow-up and share some additional information you may find useful when communicating by email.
As with any form of communication, emails should take into consideration the communication style of the person you are communicating with, as “one size doesn’t fit all.”
Behavioral research started many years ago, by William Marston Moulton, resulted in a popular and effective communication tool called DISC. Tested and validated for decades, in multiple countries, DISC has become a highly regarded communication tool used first by Fortune 500 companies, then by many small to mid-sized firms.
Moulton’s research revealed that people communicate in four distinct styles and that while people use all four styles, most have a dominant communication style that they use most of the time. The best way to establish rapport and trust is to communicate with someone using THEIR preferred style.
I use the DISC behavior model to help my clients and their teams recognize these styles and adapt their communication, leading to improved results. Naturally, when interviewed on the topic of email communication misfires, I emphasized that emails should take into account the different communication styles for best results. No one style is better than another and the key to improved communication is to talk “their language” even in emails.
Here is a brief overview of the four styles and considerations when sending your emails:
D – Dominance The High D- Dominant person is after RESULTS. Provide clear, specific and brief points. If you need to include details in your email, ensure that that the main point is made in the first sentence or two, as there is a good chance that a “High D” will not read your entire email. If you receive a short email that seems abrupt, it may be that the sender is a “High D.”
I – Influence The High I- Influencer is after the EXPERIENCE. Set a friendly and fun tone in your email. Don’t jump straight into businesses. They want to be connected with, acknowledged and appreciate enthusiasm.
S – Steadiness The High S- Steadiness person needs to feel SECURE. They are steady, logical and non-demonstrative. They do not like change, so ensure that any emails help them to understand, are based in logic and address their need for security. Be sincere and follow through.
C – Compliance The High C- Compliant is after INFORMATION. They are analytical, risk-adverse and have a high need for data, structure, and order. When communicating with them, give them the data (use charts, graphs, and stats when possible). Also, avoid being overly personal or demanding. Provide them with reasonable time and information they need to feel comfortable.
So how exactly do you know what the person’s communication style is? Ideally, use the DISC tool and training to learn your style, that of your peers and also for recognizing and identifying the style of others.