E-Mail Tip #31 Make Your Point Clearly

E-mail battles often center on misunderstandings about the intent of words used in prior notes. A typical defensive note would start out like,

• "You did not understand my point. What I said was that I never intended to sound critical of anyone. I only wanted to get the facts straight for the record."

This statement would be followed by a listing of justification for "what I said." It is amazing how many notes are sent in an attempt to explain what was already said. The writer should pay more attention to what was conveyed rather than what was said. The communication process is not complete until the reader interprets the words correctly.

A more constructive note would sound something like this:

• "I did not communicate my meaning well enough in my previous note. What I was trying to say was that Peter could have stopped the fight by getting both people to listen."

Monitor your pattern of returned notes to identify your batting average of convergence between what you wrote and what was conveyed to the reader. What you convey is a function of many variables:

• What you wrote.

• Your mood when you wrote it.

• The data to back up your thesis.

• The circumstances around the incident.

• The mental posture of the person receiving the note.

• External factors that you may not know.

• The timing of the note.

Be alert to the use of data when people use a specific example in e-mails to prove their point. Misunderstandings can happen with individuals and groups of people, especially if there is an imbalance in power among individuals in the group.

Staying out of trouble in e-mail exchanges is not rocket science. Most of the rules are common sense. It is too bad they are not common practice. One technique to cut down on misunderstandings is to always put yourself in the reader's shoes as he or she is trying to decode your meaning. If you proofread your work with that mindset, you can often spot trouble areas in your outgoing notes and correct them so there will be less need for future explanations.


Robert Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated, an organization dedicated to development of leaders. He has spoken on leadership topics and the development of trust in numerous venues across the country. He is author of three leadership books: The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for ProfessionalsUnderstanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  His ability to communicate pragmatic approach...

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