I've been writing a lot of emails lately. I spend a lot of extra time on my emails -- I rewrite them a few times so I'm sure they communicate what they're supposed to, and hopefully so I persuade people without pissing them off.
My take on arguing by email is that it's just as convincing to say "I feel" or "It seems to me" or "My take on this is" as it is to say "it is this way"; however, "I feel" takes the sting out of my statement. Hey, that's how I feel. You may feel differently. That's beautiful, man.
Also, I ask a lot of questions. "Are you really sure this is how we should approach this?" is the polite cousin of "We shouldn't do this." But "We shouldn't do this" provokes an immediate resentment on the part of someone who disagrees; while "are you sure?" solicits his or her opinion, which is always flattering, and frames it in a way that he or she really has to look at his or her own thinking: am I sure? Am I really sure?
Asking gets the reader on your side; stating invites pushback.
Even when I'm talking about facts, I'll tend to say, "As far as I can tell," or "if I understand this correctly" rather than just writing "It's 98."
In a world where people break up by text, I get a lot of half-baked emails, mostly from younger folk. The writers don't put themselves in my shoes. Sometimes they piss me off without meaning to.
Take the extra minute to revise your emails. Then wait a half hour, and then revise again. Never send an email after 6 pm if you can send it in the morning; you may be able to trim a lot of anger and confusion in the morning.
Ask rather than stating. Make clear you know it's your opinion.
Often the most convincing way to present your argument is by avoiding making it an argument.
I hope this post gets linked around, because it`s a great primer for any enterprise that involves online communication.
I`m actually sending it to a fellow officer in our online gaming guild. Most gaming communities now use voice apps like Mumble, but much still goes on by text and email.
And since most guilds spend a lot of time game together gaming, anything that oils the gears is much appreciated.
Couldn't agree more, Alex. Great post.
Using those kinds of "this is my observation at the moment" statements and "is this the best option" type questions also helps YOU make compromises later if you find the need or just change your mind about something because you didn't fall on your sword over anything to begin with.
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