As a good friend of mine often says to her two boys “Please don’t take a tone with me”. What she means when she says this is essentially “lose the attitude boys” and “manners please”. Her boys are lovely young men and they instantly get the message and check their conversation.
Just as with face to face communication tone in emails is so important. Think about it – how many times have you received an email from an acquaintance, colleague or business associate and thought “Wow they are in a bad mood today!” or “Gosh what did I do to make them so annoyed” ?
I have had both of these reactions several times in the last couple of months and the tone of a couple of emails I have received or been copied into has left me feeling a bit shell shocked to say the least. When I have actually spoken to the person who sent the email they generally fell into one of two camps. The first group didn’t see anything wrong with the somewhat tetchy or aggressive nature of their missive (therein lies the problem) while the second group were genuinely apologetic as they hadn’t realised quite how the email would sound when read by someone else and they had never intended to be aggressive or to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Email tone can be a tough one to get right and it can be all too easy when we are stressed, time poor or legitimately ticked off to fire off a cranky pants email without really having a good think first as to how it will be received. The problem with an email that has an aggressive tone, apart from being at best unkind and at worst often just plain nasty , is that a legitimate message may simply get lost as the receiver of the email is likely to find it difficult to get past the nasty tone of the email in the first place.
My first rule of thumb with those sorts of emails – you know the ones you bang our quickly and just want to fire off straight away is in fact to do just the opposite. Go ahead and type like a man or woman possessed by all means if you need to let off steam but never ever send as a first draft and never ever send without cooling off first, reading the draft aloud (multiple times if necessary) and pondering, even if only briefly, how you would feel if you were the person receiving it. If in doubt call in a friend, trusted colleague or family member and get them to go over it with you before you press send.
My second rule of thumb is to ask “Would I be prepared to say whatever is in the email if I was face to face with the person I am writing to?”. This question applies both to the content of the email and the overall manner in which it is delivered (i.e. the tone). If deep down I know it wouldn’t be kind and I wouldn’t be comfortable to speaking the way I have written the email if the person was standing in front of me then there is my answer. Time to re-group, re-draft and tone it down because once you press send it is pretty much a done deal (retracting an email never really works in my experience).
So there you have it. Have you had any experiences with poor tone in emails? Or even better have you had any great experiences where the message may not have been wonderful but the kind tone of the writer made it a bit easier to deal with the message? I would love to here your thoughts.
Here’s hoping the rest of your week is filled with kindness both in person and in any emails that cross your path.