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E-Mails – One Size Doesn’t Fit All: My Back Story to the Wall Street Journal Article, “Email Enigma: When the Boss’s Reply Seems Cryptic”
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.
How many seconds do you think it takes before someone has formed an opinion of you? It may be faster than you realize. Neuroscientist research actually shows that our brain processes impressions between 3 to 7 seconds! Further, first impressions are very difficult to erase.
While we may only have 7 seconds, the good news is that if handled well-7 seconds is all we need!
Every encounter, from conferences to meetings to training sessions to business lunches provides an opportunity to meet people, network, and expand your professional contacts by making a positive first impression.
So just how do you make the best possible first impression?
There are a few important things to consider. Did you know that first impressions are more heavily influenced by non-verbal cues than verbal cues? Communication is 7% about WHAT you say and 93% is about HOW you say it and to WHO you say it to! More specifically, 7% are your words- literal, 38% your tone of voice interpretation, whereas 55% is context, body language interpretation.
Understanding this, here are a few tips to help you to make the best possible first impression.
What is your current attitude/mood? Are you distracted or present? What is your energy level and alertness? Perhaps you are overwhelmed and haven’t caught your breath before entering a situation. Are you attending an event out of some form of obligation or commitment you’ve made, but really don’t want to be there? We’ve all experienced this before. The problem is however, that people pick up on your attitude instantly. So before you greet someone, enter a room, or step onstage to make a presentation, consider the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody. What is the impression you want to make? If you simply can’t get it together, and you have the option, you may want to consider not attending.
How are you carrying your body? Do you appear friendly and approachable? Are you standing tall, with your shoulders back, and holding your head up straight? Perhaps you are slouching or leaning up against a wall? What are your arms doing? Are they folded, suggesting that you’re bored? Or are your hands busy with food and drink causing a barrier in between you and others you meet? Are you smiling, making good eye contact, and maintaining an interested facial expression? By smiling, you are sending an invitation and letting people know that that you welcome them. When you look at someone’s eyes, you are demonstrating interest and openness.
Handshake and Personal Space
Shake hands and be aware of people’s need for space. One of the quickest ways to establish rapport is through a single handshake. Research shows that it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of rapport that you can get with just a single handshake! Conversely, if you have a weak handshake or an overly aggressive one, that won’t reflect positively. Leaning forward slightly shows that you are interested and engaged. However, if you are too close, hugging or touching people, you may be making them uncomfortable. What is considered a comfortable amount of personal space is not the same for everyone. Pay attention to their cues.
How much talking versus listening are you doing? Is your voice sincere and clear? People want to know that you understand them. Are you giving them your full attention or are you looking over their shoulder, perhaps for someone else you’d rather be talking with?
Across all cultures, the people you meet are judging how warm and trustworthy you are, as well as how competent you are. Research shows that these two trait dimensions account for 80 to 90 percent of an overall first impression.
It is much harder to change a negative impression than to make a positive first impression. So have your few seconds count and make the best first impressions you can.
Only 3% of the businesses in the US have written business plans – and yet those 3% control over 90% of the wealth in the US! Further, 80% of small businesses without a Business Plan- will fail in their first 5 years. With statistics like this, why don’t more businesses have written business plans?
Perhaps it’s because the experience of creating them has been as painful as going to the dentist! Traditional business plans can be burdensome, expensive and lack action-oriented appeal.
Unless you are seeking capital from a financial institution, these types of plans are completely unnecessary. Instead, there are simple, inexpensive and highly effective options that businesses can use to write actionable plans whether starting, sustaining, growing or exiting a business.
Being the practical, action-oriented entrepreneur that I am, I am passionate about One Page Business Plans®. Apparently, I am in good company, as even OPRAH recommends One Page Business Plans!®
I’ve used the One Page Business Plan® in my own business for years before becoming a Certified One Page Plan® Consultant, helping other entrepreneurs to capture their best thinking in writing.
Do you have an actionable business plan for 2014? If not, consider joining me for an interactive workshop, on January 28th where you will get your 2014 business plan written and activated in 1 Day!
This concise process will bring new energy to your business and you’ll find great value in developing a one-year action plan that guides your business decisions and focuses your resources where they’ll be most productive over the upcoming year.
Allison@coppiacommunications.com or 925.876-3161