Has someone ever walked away from you in mid conversation or hung up on you on the telephone? Have you ever done that to someone? It must have been caused by anger, disagreement or frustration. Whatever the reason, the result is information is not communicated. It is also considered very rude and that can result in a deterioration of the relationship.
Today we spend so little time speaking face to face or even on the telephone. It is almost all by email or texting. We can apply the same behavior to these communications. Reading and responding to only part of an email is cutting off the sender from the rest of their message. Fortunately, until you tell them that you only read part of what they wrote, the rudeness factor doesn’t come into play. But the problems associated with acting on incomplete information are worse than a slight. They can cause you to miss or be late to an important meeting, not have all the details to make a decision or not know about a change in your role or responsibility. The list of consequences is proportional to the reasons you are contacted in the first place. And when it is revealed that the email was dismissed or considered not important enough to be read completely, that business relationship is jeopardized.
But what about those long winded emails that never seem to get to a point? They are definitely considered more of an imposition than valuable information. Like I tell the authors whose books I edit, a little honest self-assessment goes a long way. The cure for the habit of pouring words into a message is to first break down your points with bullets. Then put the critical instruction first. Limit or dispense with the niceties and do that cold turkey. Close by telling the respondent to respond with any questions they may have. If you are a hard core babbler, show the message to a friendly critic. If it wins their approval then you have a template.
As a freelance court interpreter, I know my clients are very busy and they are doing me the favor of giving me an assignment. Sometimes a legal secretary, paralegal or court clerk doesn’t provide me with all the details I need. So, my follow up email is succinct. I ask only for what I need to know. As short as one sentence with greeting and closing.
I felt the irritation first hand when I had sub-contractors who repeatedly didn’t read my assignment emails, replying with questions I had already answered. After I responded a few times in short answers including a reference to the already stated information, most people were cured. But others didn’t catch on. These people took up more of my time and became labeled high maintenance. Giving excuses for not having read my email made matters worse. My time was spent providing work, so I replaced them with less demanding freelancers.
My goal is this post will be 510 words or less. Thanks for reading. Please comment.