3 tips to Avoid Humiliating Your Co-workers and Shooting Yourself in the Foot at the Same Time

The post on email writing that I was reading covered likely topics such as subject lines (change the subject line when the subject changes, don’t annoy people by writing the entire message in the subject line [unless you add a code to designate that they don’t have to open the message like for End of Message]), smart email internal policies (create a policy that everyone most will agree on and train new hires in that policy, determine when counterparts can expect your response so the “when I can get to it” people don’t get irritated at the ASAP’rs when they run into each other in the hall and the ASAP’r asks, “Did you get my email?”) and use of reply to all (don’t).

The post was well written and I would have linked here until I got to a response from the blog writer to a comment she received. Someone in the community responded to her post:
“I’m a little surprised that the ABD crew is still using email… That said, these are great tips!”.

In response to the comment, the blogger publicly corrected – humiliated – the person by replying,
“Hi Name, Do you mean the ABC crew? Here at All Best Creps…” (Yes, she then misspelled the name of her own company – All Best Creeps – in her response, likely because she was so pissed while she reacted to his comment!)

More important than any email etiquette rule about subject lines, smarter than having an internal email policy (which is pretty smart!), better than knowing who should be on which copy line is this Basic Email Rule #1:

Do not humiliate the other person.

The – THE – most important thing – the most selfish and selfless thing any email writer can do is to help the other person want to do whatever it is you want him or her to do.

Here are 3 quick tips to avoid humiliating your co-workers and shooting yourself in the foot at the same time

1. Step back.
Help the other person feel safe and smart doing what you want them to do. If you’re wrong, admit it. If they’re wrong, find a way to authentically find something that is correct and that you can build upon for your response.

2. Remember the point.
What is the point of the email? Is it to persuade the other person to do something or learn and accept something? Regardless, no one is motivated to do what you want when they feel dismissed or distressed. Think about what you really want and make it easy for your reader to give it to you.

3. Don’t be an idiot.
Use the Dwight Schrute school of thinking and ask yourself: Would an idiot do that? If an idiot would do it, do not do that thing.

What else would you add to this list?

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