How to communicate effectively though email without forgetting our manners

James Cotton, Founder of Onespacemedia, explores why we forget our manners in emails.

This article appeared in the March edition of Talk Business Magazine.

We teach our children to say please, thank you, hello and goodbye so why when we come to work do the majority of us forget what we’ve been taught? The rise of email as the primary business communication medium over the last 20 years, combined with the amount of work we all have on our plates, is eroding the quality of our business relationships.

Consider this. Lying in bed in the morning, you grab your smart phone and check your emails. Overnight you’ve had 60 emails and the first one you read is a terse request from one of your colleagues asking for something. It has no salutation. There are no pleases or thank yous. They haven’t even taken the time to sign it off with their name. Your first reaction is animosity. You don’t feel like helping this person but you know you have to. Annoyed you send a terse reply back.

What you don’t know is that the colleague who sent you the email got 100 emails overnight and is standing on a packed commuter train bashing out two-thumbed replies on his Blackberry while trying not to inhale the armpit of the man standing next to him. He’s annoyed. You’re annoyed. Your dialogue reflects it and the cycle of animosity continues.

No one wants to communicate in this way this but the pace of technical change demands that we work faster and faster. Speeding up the way we communicate is an obvious way to claw back more time in our day. Communication and the way we use language evolves - we’ve even invented emoticons to append to sentences when we don’t think that the recipient will understand what we meant. That’s just lazy. We can still be human.

Ultimately business is about relationships and good relationships are founded on good communication. Let’s not allow another generation of time-poor business people to erode the importance of communication. It’s time to draw a line in the sand. Here’s some tips to bear in mind before smashing out that two-word email with your thumbs.

Take your time

There are too many distractions at work these days but how you communicate is crucial. Think about how you want a conversation to develop and write your emails accordingly. This relationship is important so give it the time it deserves. 

Be respectful

We don’t answer a phone call by saying the name of the person who is calling so why do we do it when we email? Use a friendly salutation and remember your manners. Your parents will be proud of you.

Build a relationship

Good business is founded on relationships. Maybe that email you’re writing doesn’t feel very important in the grand scheme of things but it is! You are building a relationship that will lead to better business in the long run.

Read it back

Poor grammar and spelling can completely alter the meaning of a sentence. You don’t have the time to write another email explaining yourself. Read your email back to yourself aloud before you send it. 

Maintain levels

You’re sending friendly emails but others aren’t reciprocating. It’s too easy to feel animosity and respond in kind. Stick to your guns and stay friendly - know that you are doing everything you can to build a meaningful relationship.

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