So I redid my office recently and made it all beautiful and I’m a bit in love with it cos I’m so good with making spaces functional but not pretty but I won’t bore you with all the details (*aaaand breathe*).
My pretty little plant
What I wanted to tell you about is this pretty little plant:
I wanted a wee little plant on my beautiful white desk
(with the beautiful white monitor and the beautiful white speaker and the beautiful white marble little tray for pens and things…
A bit excited).
So I bought one and re-potted it into a little white pot and gave it a bit of a drink.
(Here you go, wee plant. You’ve earned a drink. Think I’ll have one too.)
The morning after
And the next morning, my beautiful white desk had a ring of dirt around said beautiful wee plant.
So I wiped it away.
And the next morning, my beautiful white desk had another ring of dirt around said beautiful wee plant. So I wiped it away.
On the third morning, I realised what was happening.
My wee plant was growing.
Each night, while no one was watching, it was getting imperceptibly bigger and stronger.
And as it grew and stretched, it was shaking loose tiny bits of the potting mix I had got in amongst its foliage as I re-potted it.
The way to balance out an assertive message is to make sure you’re being an actual human. Don’t write like a professional robot.
Use the words that feel true to you – sorry instead of apologies. Can’t instead of cannot. Happen instead of occur – you get the picture.
Greet the person as a human. Say Hi instead of Hello or Good morning or Dear.
And then connect in a human way:
Hey, thanks for explaining that
I’m so sorry, that’s not quite right
I see things a bit differently
Bad news, I’m afraid
DO NOT have an overly friendly, happy-sounding first line if you’re about to say no or get tough or deliver bad news. It’s the worst thing you can do.
The way you connect with your reader has to be 2 things:
Authentic to who you are (ie, don’t be fake)
Congruent with the message (ie, happy email = positive greeting. Push back or bad news email = friendly but real and honest greeting.)
Above all, don’t fall into the trap that digital communications allow us to so often: don’t let the digital and physical distance between you and your reader lull you into feeling safe to say things you’d never say face to face.
Be a good human – in person and by email.
The trick with clarity is using FEWER WORDS. Your message needs to be clear. Unambiguous. And the more words you use (usually to soften, or mitigate your fears about sounding rude or abrupt), the muddier the message.
You CAN make a clear, succinct statement of the bad news/hard message because you’ve already connected as humans in a very authentic and empathetic way.
You really WON’T sound blunt if you’ve done that part right!
So, if you’re writing to say no, make sure the no is in a simple clear statement, like:
No, I’m sorry we can’t do that
We won’t be able to do it quite like that (but here are some options of what we can do…)
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Pushbacks are one of my favourites!
You can pushback in a very friendly assertive way:
Yes, I can do that for you once you’ve done XYZ
Yes, I can do that – I’ll be able to start [date/time-next week, next month, next decade (just kidding, don’t do that!)]
I can do X part of this, who can do Y and Z?
I can do ABC once I receive XYZ
Do you notice how every one of my examples is very short?
The main message MUST be concise. You can elaborate afterwards.
3. Just the right amount of info – not too little, not too much
Here’s the trick – giving just the right amount of info AFTER your very succinct, clear message.
You probably can’t get away with:
Because that’s simply not enough information. By the same token, though, you also shouldn’t write 3-5 paragraphs when your reader really just wants the yes or no plus a reason why.
So the way to figure out how much information to give is to get over yourself.
What I mean is, it’s not about you – it’s about them.
The way to figure out how much info to give your reader is purely based on WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW, and NOT what YOU WANT THEM TO KNOW.
Now we need to figure out how much info our reader needs.
We do this by putting ourselves in their shoes, reading the clear, succinct message as if we were them, and then asking ourselves “What would I want to know now?”
A vast amount of the time, it’s “Why?”
So, in a new paragraph (or even better, in a bullet list), explain why!
And then ask yourself again, “What would I want to know now?”
This is where there’s a huge amount of scope depending on the context. It might be a timeframe. It might be a next-step. It might be other options. It might be an apology.
As long as you’re writing with a clear perspective of your reader’s experience, you’ll do this well.
If you truly put yourself in the position of someone getting a no answer when they were hoping for a yes, this is the best way you could hope to receive bad news.
It’s not overly formal (which can easily offend – AKA sound bitchy).
It’s not too blunt (because we’ve provided enough info).
It’s not fluffy and wordy (which is just irritating because you have to work hard to get the key messages).
So there you go, good humans!
You CAN deliver the hard messages, be assertive, and NOT sound like a [insert your preferred insult here – don’t get me started. I have an impressive profanity vocab]!
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.
What if I said you could sit down right now for ONE HOUR and learn how to use it and never look back? Less-chasing. Fewer games of email tennis. Significant amounts of time saved. Significant increases in productivity.
I’ve learned, over the years, that my best tool when I’m feeling emotional distress is SLEEP.
I simply don’t know if it’s the same for everyone. But for
me, when I’m not coping and nothing else is working, I know that sleep will
make things look different.
Maybe I should do some research, I don’t know. I just felt like telling you.
It’s pretty much ALWAYS related to one of my kids.
When I’m overwhelmed by my emotions because of something they’ve said or done or not done or are about to do, if I find myself ruminating and wearing dark glasses and everything looks TERRIBLE, here’s what I know:
I know that if I go to sleep, something happens in my brain.