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Reconsider (e-mail)!

Of all the many legal and business concepts to come your way, "consideration" deserves more than just a moment considering, and even reconsidering. What comes to mind when you first read the word "consideration"?

One definition: "Consideration" is the payment received in exchange for a product or a service. And "Consideration" is also careful thought or reflection; both words have the same root as being "considerate." The English language is filled with these kinds of words, words that carry different meanings. How about "reconsider"? We use that one in reference to the non-monetary definition: reframe, re-examine, review, take another look at, etc. And that's what I'd like to do over these 2 minutes: Let's review some benefits of reconsidering.

"Reconsidering what?" I hear you ask. Since Global Readiness® concerns itself with communication, let's start with our most ubiquitous business tools of 2019: text and email. Or any written work, for that matter. In fact, in "Reconsider! (Rewrite)" coming up later this week, I'll be doing just that: reconsidering this piece in order to shorten, simplify, and clarify my meaning, as we began doing a couple of months ago.

Back to Basics

Somehow, in the transition from low- to hi-tech, we've carried forward a lot of extra baggage. Here in Japan, people start most of their e-mail messages with formalized salutations, and most everyone everywhere still feels compelled to answer every e-mail or text they receive, both carryovers from letter-writing days. (For Gen-Z readers, we older generations would write or type out letters, address them, put stamps on them, get them to a post office, send them, wait a few days or weeks sometimes before getting a reply.) It was considered (there's that word, again, this time with yet another meaning!) rude to simply not reply to a letter after someone had gone to so much trouble to get their thoughts over to you.

We would exchange a few business letters a year with clients, maybe more with friends, and then some of us once a week (rarely more) with close family members or with a long-distance romantic interest. And now? Some of us face hundreds of e-mail messages a day, especially when you add in mail-lists, cc's, (and the dreaded bcc), and the common notion seems to be "I'd better answer each and every one of these as quickly as possible."

The result is a lot of wasted time on all sides and a lot of miscommunication. Into the same inbox as your well-crafted, edited, considered and considerate e-mail, your colleague has received spam, boss's directives, urgent (and sometimes incomprehensible) requests, and maybe a love note. And for good measure, that same inbox also received your hastily written, careless, sarcastic reply, and–to no one's surprise except perhaps your own–that one also didn't get a good response.

Before you hit SEND on your next e-mail, reconsider. Reconsider by asking yourself the following questions: 1) Do I really need to send this message? If, and only if, the answer is a clear "Yes," move onto: 2) Have I articulated (at least to myself) a clear objective in sending this message? 3) Does everything in this message support the objective? 4) Have I edited the message for the 7 Cs (Clear, Concise, Concrete, Convincing, Courteous, Complete, Correct), meaning, have I adequately shortened the message down to only the words that are necessary for the reader? And finally, 5) Have I eliminated room for misinterpretation of my meaning or tone?

This last question, an extra take on "Clear," is a doozy. Because the honest answer is almost always "No." It's almost impossible to convey "tone" correctly. Even the best writers struggle to capture "tone," because, to state the obvious, the written word has no literal "tone." The tone is all inside the reader's head. If you want to test this, read an e-mail into a voice memo and ask a colleague to record the same e-mail with his or her version, without hearing yours. Then compare the two tones of voice. Play with it some more. Read your mail out loud another way, with different tone. Read it trying to capture the opposite of the tone you want to convey. It's not that hard. And that's the danger.

That's why you may wind up back to number 1, and decide to pick up the phone or meet face-to-face rather than send an email or text.

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