Have you ever received an email from a colleague or business acquaintance that you found offensive, or even just plain annoying? Maybe someone sent an abrupt remark to a suggestion of yours, or didn’t answer your question regarding an important issue. Though email has made much of our working life easier, as a mode of communication it’s not without its downsides. Using email as a business communication tool doesn’t come naturally to some and it pays to be aware of how you use email (i.e. there is such a thing as using email too often!), how you express yourself in email and how others may perceive your emails.
Without the benefit of talking to someone face to face and having the cues of body language, it can be difficult to ‘read’ what people are really saying, or trying to say in email, and misunderstandings can occur. For example, some people aren’t particularly forthcoming in email and may appear off-handed or uncaring, particularly in response to a query or request. In this way, it pays to give a colleague or acquaintance the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were busy completing multiple tasks when they wrote the email, or maybe they were just having a bad day. After all, it happens to the best of us!
So, when in doubt or if you are unsure if someone is being deliberately offensive or antagonistic, leave your response to the email for the next day. And if you’re not sure what someone is trying to say in an email, give them a call to discuss or go and speak to them face to face if you’re in the same office. Talking can immediately clear the air, and is often better than emailing back and forth about a complex issue. You could then follow up with a brief email outlining the points discussed and any follow-up measures to be taken. This will emphasise the importance of clear and appropriate communication – and your colleague will probably thank you for it!
See the following for more suggestions for good email etiquette: