People ask me a lot about how to deliver hard messages by email.
My answer? Keep it short, keep it simple, and above all, be MATTER-OF-FACT.
The art of being matter-of-fact – (avoid the dramas, people!)
What do I mean, hard messages?
I mean the emails you don’t want to send.
The ones you procrastinate. The ones where you need to let someone know you disagree. or the ones where you need to push-back or the dreaded NO email.
I also get asked how to let someone down gently, how to decline a request, how to say “this isn’t for me” (and no, I’m not talking about breaking up your relationship by email. #BeAGoodHuman).
What we get wrong with the hard messages
We think we need to justify our position
We really don’t. Or we don’t need to go into detail, anyway.
We think that if we’re saying no to someone that we need to give lots of good reasons so they can see where we’re coming from and ULTIMATELY so they still think we’re a decent human.
But the problem with this is that every justification you provide when saying no to someone is another opportunity you’re giving them to argue or push back. It’s another door they think they can get a foot in to change your mind. To help you see things their way. If you don’t want that to happen, if you want them not to have a comeback, just say no with minimal reason.
Is IS your right to say NO. We live in the age of consent and all that.
We think we need to use a formal voice to sound more professional
Please don’t make me say it again.
The formal voice is problematic.
It’s no longer fit for purpose. It causes problems. It doesn’t come across as polite, it comes across as all kinds of bad things.
We try to soften the message
And that just makes it less clear!
Do you know what’s worse than getting bad news?
Having to work hard to find out what the bad news is.
The other problem with the softening is emotional leakage. The more we narrate, the more we write sentences and paragraphs, the more chance there is for your emotions to leak through (passive aggressive, anyone?) or for someone to *think* they can read between the lines.
Avoid that by being as factual and brief as possible
Avoid emotional leakage by staying matter-of-fact.
How to sound matter-of-fact
Ask yourself, “What is the high-level message I want to get across?”
WRITE IT DOWN. IN ONE BREATH. ONE SHORT STATEMENT.
Now imagine if you’d say those words to someone’s face. No? Feels a bit harsh?
Good – you need to identify that. So now, what would you change?
Then, if you need to soften, use a “sorry” but don’t use an “unfortunately.”
What might that look like?
We don’t need dramas.
Let’s just be good humans, be boundaried, be awesome, and get shit done.
Being #matteroffact will help you do that.
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Check out my quick list of communication rockstar email resources and advice!
- Grab my free video series and become a communication rockstar! Just 60 seconds a day over 4 days!
- Download my Life-saving emails pdf
- Download my How To Write A Shitty Document pdf
- Grammarly – compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing
- Grammarly Tone Detector – check the tone of your message before you hit send!
- My online course is a game-changer! Use my proven formula to Write Better Emails today!
- 8 Plain Language Email Tips – Write more effective emails today!
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