Whether you communicate with someone face-to-face or by phone, email, text or instant message, mismatched communication styles likely mean problems. Email communications, in particular, are ripe for misunderstandings. Knowing about these four basic response techniques should help you understand. Most people use two or more of these methods; few follow one path all the time. Which describe you?
- On the spot. Some people prefer to handle all email messages as soon as they arrive. This approach is useful in deadline-driven professions where time is of the essence.
- By day’s end. Some people prefer to handle all email correspondence by the end of the day. This gives them some flexibility about when and what to tackle. If they get a request in the morning that merits considerable effort, this gives them time to work it into their daily schedule.
- Within half a day. Some people and entire organizations have a half-day responsiveness policy. The goal: Email that arrives in the morning should be answered by that afternoon. Email that arrives in the afternoon should be answered by the next morning.
- Within days. Some people let emails collect for days, then handle dozens of them in a given time period — every three days, at the end of the week or in some defined space.
In all cases, a few basic guidelines will help everyone, including those with conflicting communication styles.
- Quick acknowledgment. If you can’t fully respond to the brunt of your emails amid a tough stretch at work, while you’re traveling or at other times, at least acknowledge reception of the email. Send a quick note such as, “I received your message, traveling until Tuesday evening, will respond at length then.” This can help reduce potential anxiety on the part of the sender.
- Rerouting and acknowledgment. If you’re not the right person to handle the message or you know how the sender can get the issue resolved quickly, fire off a fast response. The recipient will be thankful.
- Completing what you start. When you are the right party and can address the issue immediately, try to do so. Whether it takes five, 10 or 15 minutes, once you delve into the task, try to complete it then and there.
- Establishing email signatures. Develop a comprehensive set of email signatures that answer frequently asked questions. Nearly every email software program today lets you save several signatures — also known as closing statements — that appear automatically once you finish the body of the email and click on the appropriate signature link. So, if you’re asked a question repeatedly, formulate a fabulous answer, and save it is as a signature. Thereafter, you might be able to send that paragraph without having to do much else, or at least making just a few refinements here and there.
- Review before sending. This is key. We’ve all made the mistake of sending messages too soon, leaving out an important word, committing an error in logic, sending something that makes no sense, or worst of all, sending something that lets you vent rather than conduct business.
Which of these tips help you do your job more efficiently? Do you have others you can share? Please comment in the box below.