People-Skills: The E of Email Does Not Mean Emotion

Email is still alive and well. How about the people who received your last email? Was the email clear, concise, and respectful? Or did emotion creep in and rile the issue and people’s sensibilities?

As I teach people skills to corporate teams, they continue to raise one persistent issue – how best to respond to negative emails. Without a doubt, we can diffuse a negative email more effectively through true conversation than through another email.

Beyond that, take steps to ensure that the email we write is not negative — lest we start or feed an e-war!

People-Skills: The E in Email Doesn't Stand for Emotion!

Let us never forget that …

The E of Email Does Not Mean Emotion

Wouldn’t we feel silly saying to a teammate or customer, I will send you an “emotion mail” later today. Yet workplace colleagues write them!

A recent emotion mail sent to me by an online colleague (not a customer) serves up some great lessons. Here’s the original emotion mail and an alternate approach.

Hi Kate,
I find your blog posts to be consistently well-written and valuable. They nicely reflect my own sentiments towards customers too. It’s my hope that by sharing links to them on Twitter and other SM platforms, readers benefit from the insightful material and you benefit from the exposure you clearly deserve.

After reading your most recent post – which I was about to post on Twitter – I noticed this in the footer: “If you want to re-post or republish this post …”. If it were anyone else I would have immediately decided that I don’t have time to address the ambiguity and never post anything from them again.

However, in this case, I’m assuming that I may be misreading your intent. Please clarify: is your statement intended to dissuade people from posting links to your material on Social Media platforms?

The emotion about addressing the amibguity and never posting anything from them again minimizes the compliments of the opening paragraph.

If we were to send this type of email to a teammate or a customer, it could put the relationship at risk.

What if the email were written like this:

Hi Kate,
I noticed the footer on your blog post “If you want to re-post or republish …”. Wasn’t sure what it meant. Is it OK to put the links to your blog posts on Twitter without permission each time? I find your blog posts valuable and love to share them. Let me know! Many thanks…”

Which version of the email would you rather receive — the original or the alternate approach?

4 Tips to Turn Emotion Mails into Positive Emails

  1. Know our purpose for sending the email. In the original emotion mail above, what is the purpose? To clarify the meaning of the footer? or to vent frustration about being confused? If we admit the true purpose to ourselves, we can choose not to send the negative email and send a positive one instead.
  2. Simple and clear beats wordy and emotional. People get scads of emails. We increase the chances that people will read email by keeping it simple and politely getting to the point. The best part of emotion to use in an email is emotional intelligence (EI).
  3. The more emotion we use at someone, the harder it is to effect a change. If we want a teammate to change some behavior, using emotion at them can make it tougher for them to do just that — even if they agree with our requested change! Let them change while saving face. Less is more in this case.
  4. Formal sometimes seems rude. Surprised to read this? When we have something negative to say, couching it in formal language doesn’t make it positive. It sounds like formal negativity and can seem rude to others.

    If we have something negative to say to a teammate, best to communicate what we want instead of what we don’t want. State how we want to be treated instead of how we don’t want to be treated. Use I statements instead of you statements. This avoids accusations and still communicates honestly, clearly, and respectfully — in a positive manner.

My advice to corporate teams: “We shine in people-skills when we communicate positively not negatively and forward not back.”

It’s critical in delivering customer service and truly appreciated in teamwork.

What other tips will you offer here to turn emotion mails into positive emails?

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

©2011 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this blog post in part or in whole, please email for terms of use. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes on the ultimate customer service experience, teamwork, and leading change. Kate turns interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times of change. See this site for workshop outlines and customer results.

6 Responses to “People-Skills: The E of Email Does Not Mean Emotion”

  1. Midwesterner says:

    I’m not reading the original example as disrespectful or negative about your blog’s content. It’s a compliment that the writer is so inpired by your message that they’re willing to put in additional effort to ensure they can ethically continue to share your work.

    In the spirit of excellent customer service, if you view your blog readers as “customers”, the correct response is “THANK YOU for bringing to my attention that the notice regarding republishing needs some clarification.”

    The incorrect customer-service response is to complain that the person reporting a difficulty didn’t use a proper form or procedure.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi “Midwesterner”,
      Interesting perspective. My post is a reflection on how words/emotion impact other people — not a complaint. I see that the words do not hit you in a negative way and I respect that. When they do hit people in a negative way, it’s worth taking a look and thinking “how could this wording be better”.

      The person who left the comment is a colleague and I do respect him. When workplace colleagues use emotion with each other, the approach is to address the emotional impact.

      With customers, as you say, we afford far more flexibility and be assured that I treat all my customers with the utmost care.


  2. Kate, as usual I find your post right on the money. And so timely…I’ve been avoiding responding to an extremely emotional (angry) email from a former tenant (broke his lease, left the apt. pretty trashed, & is angry that I didn’t return 100% of his deposit). Every time I try to respond, I just get snippy. These are really good reminders!

    I also recall advice – possibly from another of your posts – of reading the email out loud before sending it. It’s amazing when hearing it aloud with inflections in the voice how different it can sound than what was intended. I’ve found sometimes that what I think is humorous just sounds sarcastic and snarky, or when I think I’ve so carefully hidden my annoyance it would be clear to anyone reading.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Julie,
      I appreciate your personal story for it brings such a great impact to the tips I offered. Thanks for remembering my previous tip about reading the email out loud. I do it often both for clarity and to make sure it sounds good.

      If there is anything I can do to assist you in your challenging email, just let me know.

      Warmest regard,

  3. Lolly Daskal says:

    I cannot help myself. I will be emotional in my comment.

    I LOVE your version of the email. I have shared it with many who I consultant with. (I have given you credit)

    Kate you are BRILLIANT and are really good at what you do.
    Your posts are valuable, powerful, useful and beneficial.

    There is a time and place for emotional and I believe this is the right place..

    What do you think Kate?

    Lolly Daskal
    Lead From Within

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I value your (emotion here) and also your perspective on the post. When frustration hits, keeping it simple reduces the chance that we will offend someone in our emails or email replies. I am glad you found my suggestion worthy of sharing with others. A high compliment given your experience and the span of your connections/reach. I am grateful.

      Thank you!

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