5 tips for writing influential work emails

by Catherine Mattiske · 4 min read
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Is there anything more frustrating than the need to respond to a coworker’s question with “Per my previous email…” or “As you’ll see further up in this Slack thread…”?
Optimize your emails using 5 easy tips.

Do you feel like your work communication is often ignored, like you’re wasting your time with every keystroke, knowing that it’s likely you’ll just find yourself typing another version of the exact same thing later this week because no one seems to actually absorb the information you deliver? One key to removing frustration from your life is pretty simple: Focus only on what you can control, rather than wishing you could change other people. Instead of blaming colleagues, what if there were a few key changes you could personally make to improve reader retention and increase engagement in your emails?

five tips for optimizing your messaging

1. Keep it short

Don’t try to communicate everything at once. Break down your message into bite-sized nuggets to ease the reader’s mental digestion. Emails as long as War and Peace get skimmed, not read. Some of the most effective work emails are a few short, simple paragraphs, with some being only one sentence long — especially the key message.

Curious what words you should avoid in business? Read about them here.

2. Use "I" statements

“I” statements reflect accountability, while “you” statements can seem accusatory. You still need to address the issue at hand, however, so back up your “I” statements with facts. Consider the accusatory feel of this “you” sentence: “You need to manage your department more effectively to hit our Q2 goals.” An “I” statement, on the other hand, involves you in the problem and creates a framework of teamwork: “We’re not on track to hit our Q2 goals right now, so I think we might want to try some of the following …”

3. Avoid absolutes

Absolute words such as never and always are rarely accurate, and can create a self-defense barrier with the reader. For example, saying, “You never do well in meetings” or “This always happens on sales calls” will likely solicit negative responses. However, focusing on the gray area between absolutes increases connection. Consider this alternative: “You continue to do a great job in meetings with A and B. I think that C could be improved, especially if we tried X or Y.” This sentence starts with positive framing and offers a solution instead of simply being critical.

4. Build translation bridges

I’ve spent my career researching how people learn and process information differently, but they’re often unaware of their own biases. By using language that taps into these unconscious preferences, you’ll be more likely to garner attention and pique interest! For example, some people best connect to a concept when they understand the big picture. For this audience consider: “This new project opens a new market, increasing our global recognition,” and fill your email with action words like focus, goal, purpose, upside, and intention. Other people are more visual, and prefer charts, graphs, and visual language such as, “I want to illustrate the following point.” I call this “building translation bridges.” 

By noticing your co-workers’ styles of speaking and writing, you’ll have key insight into the best way to write emails they’ll notice and read, instead of passively scanning.

5. Ask questions

People want to feel engaged and connected. Instead of rattling off a list of orders, use specific questions to unlock people’s creativity and engage them. For example, some people love brainstorming and will jump at the chance when you ask, “What possibilities can we come up with?” Others are more hands on, so try asking, “How would you begin to craft a solution?” Still, others only truly get it when they’re able to personalize the topic, so ask, “What’s your experience with this issue?”

Tapping into people’s “Genius Zone” in this way is how people get the best out of others, create rapport, and become master communicators and leaders of teams.

original article published on sheventures podcast

12 JAN 2023 
About Catherine

About Catherine mattiske

Catherine Mattiske, best known for creating ID9 Intelligent Design and the Genius Quotient (GQ), is a leading light in the corporate learning and team-building industries. She regularly works with large and small organizations to help team members better understand one another while effectively collaborating and boosting individual and team morale and productivity in the workplace.

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