The prospect was in a “time crunch,” she said, and didn’t appreciate being “threatened” by the email. That is how I landed a new client!
Here is the email my new client sent to her prospect that caused the above reaction:
Good Morning Sophie,
This is just a friendly reminder that the rooming list for the ABC room block at the *Hotel* is due to me by 4:00PM today, April 2nd, 2012.
Please note that if we do not receive the rooming list by 4:00PM today, we can not guarantee availability and the group rate for your group.
Please let me know if you have any questions at all!
Threatening? Hardly! But if the recipient thought it was, it was!
Why emails fail to hit the mark
According to research by Justin Kruger, PhD, NYU & Nicholas Epley, PhD, University of Chicago, published in the
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 5, pages 925-936), writers overestimate both their ability to:
•convey their intended tone in the emails they write and also,
•to correctly interpret the tone of messages that others send to them.
Why do we do that? Ego. They, of course, put it more elegantly, “egocentrism-the social psychological phenomenon whereby people have a difficult time detaching themselves from their own perspectives and understanding how other people will interpret them.” (The funny thing about ego is that your ego may tell you that this research isn’t talking about your ability.)
What do to do about it
Write for readers who are busy with their own issues.
Understand that they are unlikely to interpret the words in the way you intended, so select your words carefully. Just as Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Write for readers who won’t give you the benefit of the doubt
Because we don’t hear the writer’s tone of voice when we quickly scan their email, we tend to think the worst of them. This is especially true when we don’t know the other person (though it even happens with friends; have you ever read an email from someone you know really well, and think to yourself, “Wonder what’s wrong with her today” and when you ask her, she says, “Nothing, why?”). Keep your words positive and focused on solution and next steps. (Consider the difference between writing to “remind” and writing to “encourage” future action.)
Ask yourself: What conversation am I avoiding?
When the situation is difficult, email is a tough communication tool to use (see above). It’s not that you can’t; it’s that by the time you craft a respectful, politically sensitive, well-written email to express your view point, you’ve used half your day!
Never, ever write to prove another person wrong .
Find a way to help them save face.
Here is a possible rewrite to the original email:
Good Morning Sophie,
Your meeting is quickly approaching and to ensure your guests receive the excellent group rate you negotiated, your rooming list is needed. Will you be able to submit it by 4:00PM today?
I’ll phone you to see if I can assist you in any way. As soon as we have the list, we can guarantee availability for you.
We look forward to welcoming you soon!