As we know, humans take the meaning of our communication from all the data available to us in a face to face interaction. We unconsciously process all the visual data and form our perceptions based on how the other person looks and the body language of a person and we take the real meaning from the tone, the way in which something has been said. The words that are used are also important, just not as significant as the visual and the tonal inferences we make for oursleves.
So much for 'high context communication'.
So what about the other end of the spectrum, the 'low context communication' of an email. Esentially, there is no data from which we normally prioritise our meaning. The email words alone, could even be said to carry no meaning. You are left to intuitively assume the senders intention and therefore their meaning. A risky business to be sure.
In this context then, how do you 'connect' with someone through email, how do you help the other person get a sense that they are dealing with someone "who gets it", dealing with a person they can know and trust - in short a person on the same wave-length as them?
First, it is important to recognise how we each write an email. We all compose our emails in a way which makes sense to us. When we do this, our own assumption is that we have 'got it right' - we believe we send the perfect, carefully crafted email.
How is it that our emails are sometime misunderstood, or the point that we so carefuly made went completely unnoticed.....
Next time you need to send an important email to someone (you will need to have had an email from them for this to work) try this:
Put aside your own 'right' way of doing an email - look at an email you got from them and as you compose your response, incorporate the following components:
1. Greeting, What did they use? Hi, Dear, no greeting. Whatever they used, you use.
2. Ending, again what did they use? Thanks, regards, best regards, warm regards. Whatever it was you use it too.
3. What email tone do they use? Formal, structured, logical, friendly, casual, direct. As painful as it may be for you... match this too.
4. Length? Long and verbose, short to the point? A blackberry fan who writes the email on the subject line? Again, as much as you may hate it, mirror exactly what they have done.
5. The actual words and any common phrases? Simply repeat - Use their own words right back!
6. Test and refine, based on what you notice back next time, adapt and further refine.
Dont believe it? Well take it as an experiment, test it out - you can always go back to your perfect way later on, just like everone else......