If we are honest then we have to admit we have all decided to send an email to deal with an uncomfortable or upsetting issue rather than have a direct conversation. We would also have to admit that those emails didn't actually help resolve the issues or confusion more quickly and effectively. The fact is we were just using email as a way of hiding and, in turn, creating a situation of rising tensions and escalating problems. Thus, email wars erupt, clutter mailboxes, eat up time and thwart collaboration, morale and productivity.
Email is a great way to communicate if it is used correctly but unfortunately it often isn't. So here are a few tips for making the most of its efficiency while avoiding the worst of its failings:
1. Use email for its main purposes: communicate or receive information, as a form of documentation or for friendly correspondence
By all means use email to keep everyone informed of a project’s status, to verify what was discussed in a face-to-face or phone conversation, to ask a quick question, to say hello or send a compliment.
2. Do not use email to resolve emotional issues or arguments
In other words, if you are upset with someone or someone is upset with you, then you need to talk rather than send email. An email can never convey tone - no matter what emoticon you attach to it! It is just not a good way to communicate emotions or resolve difficulties.
3. State the purpose of your email immediately.
By stating the purpose in the subject heading or in the first sentence of your text, you minimize the possibility that the recipient will misinterpret your message or delete it before it is read.
4. Write email as you would a newspaper article.
The first sentences should contain the most pertinent information, with details following in subsequent sentences. People are busy and need the highlights. They may never finish the email and may miss important information if it is buried in the body of the text. If appropriate, have a quick summary sentence at the end.
5. If an email starts looking like a tennis game, pick up the phone.
If you email back and forth with someone more than two times about the same issue, it is time to pick up the phone and get clarification. When emails volley back and forth about the same issue, it is often a sign that something else is going on (someone is really upset, doesn’t understand, is being resistant, and so on).
6. If you don’t want an email published in a newspaper, don’t send it.
You never know what will happen with your email or to whom it will be forwarded once you press send and once it is out there it is out there for good. By definition email is public domain so treat it that way.
The bottom line is that is the information you want to convey is really impoirtant then you should be talking to someone not emailing them. Email can be a great tool but onl;y if used appropriately.