Ever been guilty of pushing that email “send” button too fast because someone pushed your buttons? If you are like the rest of us, you have.
Does this sound familiar? You sit down at your desk with your first cup of coffee and start downloading your email. As each one pops up, you get a sinking feeling…so much to go through and you have an important appointment in a half hour. You scan over your inbox and open up what you think is the most important. But you get discouraged just looking at the mile long communication–you don’t have time to read that, much less think about it! With mounting anxiety, you stop reading everything.
Exercise Your Emotional Intelligence With Email
Wow! We are all trying to develop our Emotional Intelligence and here we are, popping off-or just as bad, not responding at all to important communications.
Email is a fact of life. It is not going away. Given that reality, spending a little time learning how to manage your email with emotional intelligence has the potential to pay big dividends.
The Harvard Business Review article, Death by Information Overload, says that being inundated by email can “deplete,” “demoralize,” and even reduce your IQ! David Rock, in his book Quiet Leadership, says that the burden of email is no laughing matter and that in fact, many workers claim that it is the “most stressful part of their job.” Rock, who founded the NeuroLeadership Institute and coaches people using the latest breakthroughs on the brain, makes these suggestions:
1. “Email should contain as few words as possible.”
The reason for this, according to Rock, is because our brain changes in response to inputs. With the overload of inputs in our digital world, our brains are dangerously overtaxed, which is only exacerbated by multiple and lengthy emails. That is why they should be short, clear and to the point. You want people, with their overtaxed brains, to be able to scan it over and get your point. “Anything that reduces the quantity of emails is a positive thing. Anything that makes email as clear as humanly possible is great too!”
2. “Make it easy to see your central point at a glance, in one screen.”
Rock says that if even an email takes up more than one screen, then he doesn’t send it. (With today’s big screens, that might even be too long!) Rock suggests that, instead, send an agenda for a phone conversation and schedule a time to have a call.
3. “Never send an email that could emotionally affect another person unless it is pure positive feedback.”
Avoid “flaming”–responding to an upsetting email by shooting one back. Everyone has lost precious time ruminating about how to respond to that trigger email. Rock says, “It saps the energy of both parties of the people around them, and it’s often completely avoidable and unnecessary. If the same people had covered the issues by telephone, the emotional impact would probably have been far less.” Rock says that email should only be used to share data and information and positive feedback. Good rules of thumb!
4. “Emotional issues must be discussed by phone; email should be used only to book a time for a call.”
Like anything else, it may take time to develop this habit. One suggestion is to draft the email, to help develop your thoughts, and then save it in your draft folder and delete it a week later. Rock says, “In a big organization, putting this one guideline in place might save millions of dollars a year. As well as reducing conflicts, it also means that the right type of conversational medium is being used to tackle complex issues.”
5. “If you accidentally break rule #4, phone the person immediately, apologize, and discuss the issue by phone.”
I am a big fan of the apology. It is amazing how quickly an apology can defuse an explosive and emotionally draining interaction.
Here are a few more ideas for becoming emotionally intelligent on the internet:
6. Keep it “sweet.”
There’s just too much negativity. Extend yourself to make it “sweet.” Here are some ideas: Greet the correspondent by name; sign off with your name–it changes the tone and only takes a moment. Use a smiley face if appropriate. Bill Gates, in Business @ the Speed of Thought, says that he always signs off with a smile because there are too many negative emotions flying around the web. If Bill Gates can do it–so can you!
7. Use “bridging emails.”
If you don’t have time to thoughtfully respond–write back and let the person know that you don’t have time now to get back to them, and when you do, you will. Everyone knows that you are busy and with by bridging, they don’t feel ignored!
8. Don’t “Reply All”!
Remember, that anything that reduces the quantity of mail is a good thing. Remove everyone that doesn’t need to know.
Want more tips?
Check out: “Tips for Mastering E-mail Overload” by Steve Robbins on the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Archive.
With these practices under your belt, you should notice that you are less likely to have those hair-trigger responses or find your stomach tied up in knots over your burgeoning inbox. And what will really start to feel good is when others start to follow your practices because they see the positive benefit.
Would you like to be coached by Dr. Lynn K. Jones to develop your EQ? I would love to talk to you about some simple shifts you could make right away that will make a big difference! Schedule a time to talk that works for you on Dr. Lynn’s calendar
Dr. Lynn K Jones
Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Board Certified Coach and an Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US. Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry. She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves. A MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.