The very practical part of me is cringing as I write this.
Do we really need to have a discussion about whether it’s better to email or phone? Is this really a question we need to ask?
IT JUST SEEMS SO FREAKING OBVIOUS!
It is a question I get asked often in trainings, so here are a few things to consider.
When to email and when to pick up the phone
Is the person likely to be available right now?
If it’s office hours and they spend a lot of time in the office, there’s a good chance they’ll be available, and a phone call might be the best option. If you have reason to believe they’re out of the office or away from their desk, email might be better.
Or how about this – try to give them a quick call, and if you have no joy, THEN flick them an email. Problem solved. You don’t have to be a mind-reader.
Will their answer to your first question determine the rest of the direction of the conversation?
Then a phone call is likely to save you huge amounts of time.
Often a 3-minute phone call can replace literally hours of regular to-ing and fro-ing of stilted email conversation.
Be efficient, people!
Is there a chance someone might misread/misinterpret/take offence?
Then pick up that phone.
This is one of the most important times NOT to use email.
It’s also a situation when you probably need a written record of the conversation, but this can and should probably happen AFTER the verbal conversation. Read more on that below.
Is it a simple question but the response might take a while to explain in writing and that might lead to follow up questions?
Then pick up the phone.
You’re much more likely to have a complete conversation in one go rather than dragging it out over hours or days.
Are you a slow writer?
Then pick up the phone.
That’s just smart.
Is this person more likely to call you or email you?
Take their lead.
If they regularly call you, you should take that as an indication that it’s their preference, and just call.
If they’re a more regular emailer, they might be more introverted and more comfortable with email. Or they might just think that’s more appropriate – you could call them once and see how it goes.
Get a sense of their comfort level with that approach, or even—hold onto your hats—you could ASK them what their preference is!
How many people need to be part of this discussion?
If it’s more than 1, email is probably better.
Although if it’s 2 or 3 people, and it’s a tricky conversation, you could consider calling each one, then following up with a group email to confirm the outcomes of the conversations.
Do you need a (digital) paper trail?
We often do. But that shouldn’t mean we rule out the possibility of a phone call.
If we need something on record, that might mean there’s some tension or sensitivity around the subject. Which therefore means it’s better navigated verbally, through 2-way conversation that can have instant, responsive interaction – email doesn’t have that ability.
So pick up the phone. Have the conversation. And then follow up with a clear, relaxed, structured email to create the record.
(I do have some very important advice around how to write that email so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. More on that here)
An almost last thought
If you try calling and don’t get through, but you still think a phone call is going to save time, how about shooting through an email that just asks them to give you a quick call?
Yes, you CAN do that.
What if I get it wrong?
Guys, there just isn’t a right and wrong here.
I think that’s what people are worried about – what if I get it wrong?
Well, I think that’s called being human. We can only do our best. And mistakes are part of life.
Pause, think through some of the considerations above, and then do the damn thing whichever way feels best. You’ve got shit to do.
Looking for solutions to your business writing pain?
In a Modern Workplace Woes VT Virtual Session last week, Visible Thread CEO Evelyn Wolf and I got real about “Email Communication
How to claim your superpowers
We are SO BAD at claiming our strengths and talents. In Aotearoa New Zealand we have this on a range of levels:
- Tall poppy syndrome (pull down who’s reaching higher than the rest
- Kaua te kūmara e kōrero ki tana reka (the kumera doesn’t speak of its own sweetness)
- Just generally being up yourself, full of yourself, big head, fathead, show off
The power of a thank you
Society has many ways to stop us from comfortably saying, I’m good at [insert superpower here].
But our strengths and talents are the foundation of our growth. They’re our launchpad, our leverage. Owning them is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done!
I remember a lesson I had as a young woman, being taught how to receive a compliment. When someone compliments us, our most natural thing to do is to brush it off, deny it, minimise it, like this:
- I was just doing my job
- It wasn’t anything special
- Anyone would have done the same
- It was nothing
But I was taught, by a wise woman, to simply say, Thank you.
Smile, bite your tongue, grit your teeth against the discomfort, and just accept the compliment.
Now, 30 years later, I reflect and realise that was one of the foundations of my ability now to acknowledge what I’m good at.
You are a taonga, a treasure of value
There have been other influences along the way, like the boss who would koha or “gift” me to other teams or projects because, Shelly can write that for you, or, Shelly can facilitate that process, or, Let’s have Shelly run that workshop.
She believed in me. She treated me like a taonga, a treasure of value.
Or there are all those times people have complimented or thanked me.
For years I kept a folder in my emails called WARM FUZZIES. Everytime someone thanked or praised or appreciated me, I filed that email in there – ready to be revisited on a low day.
Now here’s the thing
I could still have bowed down to the societal pressures and those awful voices in our heads and let ALL THAT EVIDENCE that I’m talented just fade out of my memory.
I could have written it all off.
But I’ve learned over the years to gather all that evidence, put it on steroids, and put it to work for me.
So anytime I’ve been scared to claim a talent, to sell my abilities, I’ve gone back to my metaphorical filing cabinet of evidence, and pulled out some pieces to help me feel confident again.
I’m about to walk onto a stage in front of 350 people to MC an event? I pull up the time last year when a kind gentleman told me I was “the human glue of the conference.”
Worried that I can’t hold my own when pitching a proposal to an executive leadership team or board? I pull up my Gallup Strength results that say my number one strength is WOO – Winning Over Others.
I could go on.
Why we need to be a little brave
So here’s the thing about being able to say, I’m good at X.
The strongest people I know can do it.
The most powerful people I know can do it.
The most self-aware people I know can do it.
This is not a dichotomy – you don’t have to choose between being humble or being an egomaniac.
You can be a humble person who acknowledges their imperfections, how much they still have to learn, and how amazing other people are, while also acknowledging:
- X is one of my superpowers
- I’ve got a lot of experience in X
- X is in my wheelhouse
- X is my jam
- I have a strength in X
For me, those sound like:
None of those are facts in relation to anyone else. They’re not comparisons that mean “better than.” They’re not me showing off.
It’s just being honest. And a bit brave.
Because anyone who knows me would say that all of those things are true. I do no favours for myself or anyone else if I deny that.
Say it with me, I’m good at [insert superpower here]
Maybe right now, think of one thing you’re good at.
Own that superpower today. Both internally and out loud.
And see how you feel different because of that.
And give yourself permission to act differently because acknowledging your skills and talents makes you feel more powerful.
And finally, m’love, what can you do with that power?
Looking for a powerful way to fucking own YOUR it?
It might be a crisis of confidence. It might be imposter syndrome.
Either way, it can fuck right off.
Living with depression
I had a period of depression last year that wasn’t like my normal depression.
It tasted different.
This one had the distinct flavour of SELF-DOUBT.
A significant crisis of confidence.
On my tongue I could taste words like:
You’re a loser.
You’re going to fail.
You’re making a fool of yourself.
This will never work.
You don’t actually know what you’re doing.
Who do you think you are?
It was so WEIRD. I’ve kicked imposter syndrome in the ass years ago and it’s not usually a problem anymore. I hated it. It was actually pretty scary.
I came through it eventually, and there was no magic bullet or solution.
I had to slowly and consistently:
- Remind myself that a thought isn’t truth, it’s just a thought
- Dig into the fear that was hiding underneath it so I could see it and challenge it, and
- Seek evidence every day that I am, indeed, good at what I do.
I came through it eventually.
The value of a tribe
Since then, some of the women I love and look up to most in the world have all described similar crises in confidence.
An amazing business coach who has helped me grow incredibly said she was telling herself the story that she was washed up.
A therapist who has lovingly influenced my growth for many years, doubting that she’s good enough. Using a slow moment in business as evidence that she simply must not be good at what she does.
A ridiculously incredible neuroscience and flow coach doubting her direction. Wondering why she’s lost some clarity and some motivation (oh, the irony.)
So I wanted to say to you:
It’s ok. It happens to all of us. It’ll pass.
And before it does pass, while you’re sitting there with that bitter taste in your mouth and rocks in the pit of your stomach, just be a little kind. To you, ok?
One of my favourite songs at the moment is “Anyone” by Demi Lovato.
I’m not a huge fan of hers or anything but this song speaks to me. And it makes me think about the women I love who have all said to me recently that they’re doubting themselves, that their confidence is low.
I’m told she wrote it a few days before a suicide attempt. And the line that gets me says:
I feel stupid when I sing
This young woman, with a well-established career and a list of songs that have topped the charts, this young woman who has made a career out of singing, at the moment she wrote this song, had lost confidence in her abilities.
I feel stupid when I sing.
Nobody’s listening to me.
You are normal (and amazing!)
It reminded me that crises of confidence are NORMAL.
No matter how good you are at what you do. No matter how much evidence there is of your success. No matter how many times you’ve felt confident in your skills and abilities, there will still be days when you can’t connect with that knowing.
And when you have one of those days I hope you’ll remember this little love note from me.
I hope that when that bitter taste of self-doubt lingers that you’ll remember.
Everybody feels that way sometimes.
It’ll pass. It’s just one of those days.
And your fears and self-doubt are not truth. They’re just thoughts.
I see you, and you’re AMAZING!
For more “you’re AMAZING!” reminders:
We see YOU 💕
How about an AMAZING keynote to remind your team of their value? (Maybe a lunchtime webinar?)
Are you looking for that keynote? (not an average keynote.) THAT keynote!
The one they’ll remember for a lifetime? The one that invites authenticity, captures the heart, and encourages you to live a more joyful, badass life?
I think most of us are smart people. We know that lots of things are best done in person or over the phone rather than through an email conversation.
Things like getting something sorted when there’s confusion or tension or differing opinions or an issue to resolve, for example.
BUT, we also usually want a record of that discussion, so we do the “conversation follow up email.”
And that’s where we fuck things up.
Where do we go wrong?
You see, in conversation, we soften.
We use our natural, conversational voices, and we more naturally choose words that don’t inflame.
BUT. Sit down to write that email, turn on your writer switch and with it a level of formality you probably feel the conversation requires, and all of a sudden you’re doing damage to a situation you had just successfully resolved in person.
Let’s play this through
You’re a manager.
Your team is having some challenges with the way another team is providing information to them. You call the other manager. You know there’s a chance they’ll get defensive, and so you have a careful conversation, and voila – issues addressed, decisions made – resolved.
Now, the conversation follow up email, with your boss (who’s also Karen’s boss) cc’d.
There’s nothing inherently WRONG with that email. The words are not, on the surface, offensive words, But without the ease and reassurance of a conversational voice, it could absolutely cause you problems.
- Revive the tension that had dissipated during the phone call or conversation
- Undermine the way you navigated the tension in the conversation
- Lead Karen to think your record of events puts her team in a bad light, and have her feel she needs to correct the record or save face somehow.
HOW could it do those things?
Quite simply, since the conversation was naturally more careful, more diplomatic, the more formal tone of the email could be read as harsh or clinical or condescending or robotic.
FEEL, in this next example, how a conversational voice supports the good outcome of your personal conversation.
Human is always better. Personal is better than cold.
Our old idea of the “professional voice” is NO LONGER USEFUL to us. It causes problems.
How to write this email
The formula for accomplishing this is simple.
1. Make sure every word is a word you would say face to face or in a phone conversation. If you’d say hi, write hi, not hello. If you’d say thanks, write thanks, not kind regards.
2. Have a line before you get into the guts of the email that is a human acknowledgement of that conversation. Thanks for your time on the phone. Great to talk to you. Thanks for helping me get that sorted. Thanks for making some decisions about X.
3. Now use headings for the chunks of info you need recorded. Some headings could be:
- What we discussed
- What we decided
- I’m going to
- You’re going to
- We still need to know
4. Under those headings, just use a simple bullet point for each point. Try not to expand or narrate too much. Just clear and stripped back as much as possible. The more words you use, the easier it can be for misinterpretation to happen.
5. Now insert a line at the end that allows the other person to safely come back with a correction or addition without being argumentative: If I missed anything or got something wrong, just let me know!
6. Wrap it up warmly with a thanks or a talk soon or a have a great day, and BOOM.
That’s it from your friendly #RockstarWriter today.
Go, write great emails!
Psst! If you’re really looking to end the email torture forever, I can help!
What if I told you that there is actually a simple, incredibly fast formula to writing an email, and it’s actually proven to get faster replies, increased buy-in and approvals, and make you look incredibly professional, confident, and efficient?
Well, there is. And it uses: – neuroscience to influence how the reader processes your message, and psychology to leverage on how we know readers behave at work. You could sit down right now for ONE HOUR and learn how to use it and never look back!
- Fewer games of email tennis
- Significant amounts of time saved
- Significant increases in productively
My online Write Better Emails course will change your life, today!
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2020 is the year of the rock pool
One summer I was walking around some rocks on Aotea Great Barrier Island, and I thought about rock pools. Today feels like a pretty appropriate time to share that story.
Because I stopped at every single one, inspecting, looking to see what moved, what was hiding in the crevices, what colours and textures each one had.
How deep? How clear? What was growing and living in it?
But then they also have to be adaptable.
As the tides come and go, as the sun burns or rain falls, especially as the waves crash or swells rise and fall, that very specific set of circumstances changes. Drastically.
And the rock pool has no influence over those changes. It can’t control them.
It just has to adapt.
Hello, global pandemic.
Thriving in changing environments
I’m adapting. We all are.
I’m seeing rock pools all around me.
thriving rock pools
who are resilient and tenacious.
Through all of this upheaval and inconsistency and unpredictability, they continue to thrive.
Those rock pools continue to be beautiful and to support life in their own little ecosystems.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Not for the rock pool or for us in the post-pandemic “after.”
That doesn’t mean the rock pool never has to reinvent itself, farewell some species and welcome others, adjust to the changing conditions, rapidly and regularly.
That doesn’t mean it’s life is fair or it gets what it deserves.
It just keeps adapting, thriving, and finding new ways to be beautiful.
I’d like to be more like that rock pool.
Rock pool shoutouts!
WE SEE YOU 💕
I want to shout out to some of the rockpools around my ocean, amazing #womenofimpact ready to help us all adapt and thrive!
[email protected]: a marketing team that’s been incredibly responsive and generous responses to small businesses during the pandemic.
[email protected]: these guys never stop. Free advice, generous support, always available. Soooo much love for this recruitment crew.
[email protected]: performance coaching perfection! People-focused and empowering, bringing clarity to chaos and truly valuable advice in changing times.
[email protected]: environmental and tree consultants who’ve recently reinvented how they’re connecting and sharing mātauranga generously with mana and care.
Kathryn, Diella & A[email protected]: who are doubling-down on their authenticity and personality to achieve more good, have fun and help kiwi employers and job-seekers thrive.
Jules & [email protected]: unsurprisingly and yet still so impressively, they’ve knuckled down and got shit done! The resilience, resourcefulness and tenacity of our women-in-dairy is stunning, and worthy of celebration!
#goodhumans #goodbusiness #peoplefirst #manawahine #authenticitywins #empowerment