One Tip That Will Change How You Email

Early on in my career, I would some ‘talking to’s’ about the way my emails may ‘come across’. The adjectives in the feedback would range from, too bold, demanding, condescending, strong, harsh… and my personal favorite – bossy. 9 out of 10 times, the feedback was valid – even though genuinely it was never my intention. The feedback would always be quick to come, but without practical tips or suggestions to correct it – which would drive me nuts. On the rare occasion I would get a tip, it would be something superficial like “don’t use all caps” or “ask how the person is doing” and “ask more questions even if you know the answer” or try using “Hi” or “Hello” with the opening greeting instead of just their name. Genuinely wanting to correct the issue, I would try these things… but they didn’t really work. It had nothing to do with my greeting or asking more questions – it was the interpretation of my words and how they were perceived.

We all know that email can be a tricky thing, because perception is reality. How you read your emails is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how many times you read them to yourself or in what tone. Being concise can sound short. Giving a deadline can sound bossy. Asking questions can sound condescending. The list goes on, and on.

One day, during a standard talking to from my boss on an email I had written, I was finally given a practical suggestion he called the “you moron” rule. Intriguing right? Let me just say, this gentlemen is still to this day one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for. Ever. He was a straight forward, approachable, servant leader who coached his team while building their confidence. The kind of boss people moved mountains for – point being, you didn’t hesitate to take his advice. It was simple {and comical at first}: at the end of each sentence, statement, or paragraph in the email add the phrase “you moron” and then read it back to yourself. If it reads clearly, then re-write it! If you still aren’t able to get your point across without the phrase after re-writing it then try again later, don’t send it at all, or pick up the phone. I tried it at the first opportunity, and was blown away that it actually worked. Let me show you:you moron

There are so many email etiquette rules, but let’s be honest, none of them really give you a practical way to sense check how your messagecouldbe perceived – that’s what is so great about this. Of course, not every email I’ve ever written after learning this is perfect, but that’s because we’re only human. It’s always best to pick up the phone, but that’s not always an option. This has trained my brain to read my words from a different perspective, other than my own… and 10 years later, it’s still a go-to for me and that I pass along to anyone I see struggling with the same thing. Most of the time, people don’t even realize how they may sound, because they are only able to read it from their perspective.

I promise, if you embrace this golden rule, even if you think you don’t need to, it will forever change how you email, for the better.

There are some very valid, and long, lists of email etiquette tips all over the internet. Even with that, these are the ones that often seem to be an afterthought.

email rules

Happy emailing ya’ll… and HAPPY FRIDAY!


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