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Reconsider (e-mail)! (Re-write)

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

What comes to mind when you see the word "reconsider"? Reframe? Re-examine? Take another look at? All of these work for me, and they can work for you as a communicator. Let's review some benefits of reconsidering.

"Reconsidering what?" Global Readiness® concerns itself with communication, so let's start with our most ubiquitous business tool of 2019: email. The beauty of the written word is that you have time to "reconsider," just as we've done (again) with this series of Re-writes" of the blog. (Done so that you can see the benefits of editing and re-writing.)

Back to Basics

In the transition from low- to hi-tech, we've carried extra baggage. Here in Japan, people start most of their e-mails with formal salutations, and people everywhere still feel compelled to answer every e-mail they receive. These are carryovers. Back in snail-mail days, most people felt it rude not to reply to a letter after someone had gone to so much trouble to get their thoughts over to you.

Pre-internet, we would exchange a few business letters a year with clients, And now? Some of us face hundreds of e-mail messages a day, especially when you add in mail-lists & cc's. The all-too-common feeling is, "I'd better answer each one of these as quickly as possible."

The result is a lot of wasted time 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.

Before you hit SEND on your next e-mail, reconsider. Ask yourself 5 questions: 1) Do I really need to send this message? If, and only if, your 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 cut the message to leave only the words necessary for the reader? And finally, 5) Have I eliminated room for misinterpretation of my meaning or tone?

This last question, a deeper look at "Clear," is a big one. Because the honest answer is almost always "No." Why? It's almost impossible to convey "tone" correctly in writing. Even the best writers struggle to capture "tone," because, to state the obvious, the written word has no vocal quality. 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 friend to record the same e-mail with his or her version, without hearing yours. Then compare the voices. What was the same? What was different? Play some more: Read your mail out loud with different tone. Read it trying to capture the opposite of the tone you want to convey. It's not that hard. And therein lies the danger.

That's why you may go back to Question number 1, and decide to pick up the phone or meet face-to-face rather than hitting "SEND."

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