In our ever growing global reach, businesses are now facing situations where employees may work at a distance from peers, managers and clients with literally only the internet to link them. The majority of their internal business is conducted via email. Yet, how do we reconcile the acknowledged need to build and sustain good working relationships with our internal customers when email truly is the only form of communication used? How do we convey our real message when email lacks the verbal tone and visual clues so important in communicating with others?
You have seen the emails of the day. They often are a rushed attempt to get one more message out the door, some making good sense, others looking somewhat like a new language has formed overnight. Some use those funny little faces to show emotion in a fairly poor attempt to add a sense of community to email. Yet, there is research now that is showing us that you can construct an email in way that will create trust and alliance between people, producing real human connections and begin to build those ever important business relationships.
Connecting with others using email in a way that builds relationships requires four elements (OEIA):
Observation - State the facts. You do not have to be wordy, just state the truth as you know right now. This is not the time to voice your opinion, but a time to describe what has taken place, the current status of a situation or a behavior that you observed. Often, your phrase will open with the word "When."
Emotion - Share how you feel about what you observed. Again, you do not have to be wordy, or excessively expressive here. Simply state how you feel about the situation your are writing about. Be sure to state your feelings using "I feel", not "It made me feel".
Interpretation - Sate what you take the facts to mean. Now it is time for your opinion. What did the facts, situation or behavior mean to you. Often this can be stated as "I take this to mean..."
Agreement - Ask for agreement on action. Sometimes the most beneficial statement here is "Help me understand what happened." This last step is where you can create an open dialogue with your recipient that begins to establish a different level of understanding and connection that typical email jargon does not.. Even through email you and your recipient can engage in constructive feedback loops, conflict resolution or critical conversations.
Now, don't panic. For those of you who tend to fire off emails in 5 seconds or less, you will need to slow down until you develop this practice. However, these four quick steps can prove to be very valuable when the stakes are high and the relationship really matters.
Amy Harris Hardin is the President and Owner of SmallByte WORKSHOPS, a management training and consulting company, serving clients who want long-lasting development for their employees and management staff. SmallByte WORKSHOPS help you to improve performance through its unique workshop method - express programs made part of your regular schedule. Usually, 2-3 hours in length, SmallByte WORKSHOPS offer an alternative to time spent away in traditional training courses. Visit us at http://www.smallbyteworkshops.com