May 18, 2020

Keyboard Communication

Communicating in New Ways

Some of us have thrived for years in the environment of the face-to-face meeting. It’s meant we’ve been able to read a room, notice body language, and maybe build rapport with someone based on the photos in their office or by identifying with the university on their displayed diploma. We were able to look our employees in the eye and tell if they were up or down or scared or happy.

The fancy language describing this is emotional intelligence. Lots of us have used that to our advantage to lead, manage, sell, buy, present, and any other number of key business transactions.

For the past month or two, those abilities have been back-burnered for the majority of us in almost every situation.

Instead, we are WebExing, Zooming, LinkedIn-ing, Teaming, calling, or messaging. Those activities require a whole different set of skills and abilities and, frankly, too often too many people are ill-equipped for human interaction that doesn’t include actual human interaction.

How do I know this to be true? Let’s take it back to the basics and talk about email.

Emailing in your business isn't new. Depending on it is.

Tend Before You Send

I’m pretty sure I’ve made every mistake one could make in electronic correspondence. True as that may be, I can tell you there are some rudimentary things you can do to help get your message across, practice decent decorum, and leave a better impression.

In anxious times like these most people are so focused on getting their points made and their to-do lists cleared that they “shoot” emails out without regard to how they may be received. Lately we’ve seen some interactions with people who are perfectly kind in person or on the phone but send some emails that actually felt like a punch in the stomach. It happens every once in a while, but when it happens routinely it’s easy to see the sender just isn’t being thoughtful. They’re actually being selfish.

Decorum and decency should be a regular part of commerce and – in times such as these – even more so. Unfortunately, tonality is often absolutely ignored, and hastily written emails are sent.

Consider these simple tips:

  • Send that email to yourself first. Come back to it, read it, edit it, then decide if you actually want to deliver it to the intended recipient.
  • Read it back – slowly – to yourself before hitting send.
  • Put a delay delivery on it. Just because you are working at 1am on a Sunday night doesn’t mean the person who is now working from home, nervous about circumstances, or tethered to their email has to read it and respond at 1am.

Polite engagement needn’t be saved for in-person communication. It’s appropriate with a keyboard, too.

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