If I could take back some of the MONSTER emails I’ve sent over my life, I’d do it in a heartbeat. So many times I wrote way too much, giving unnecessary info and reasoning for decisions made, highlighting caveats and nuances that simply aren’t important, and going into extraneous details just to make myself seem smarter and more put together.
Or have you ever sent an essay response to someone, only to get a longer essay back? Ugh. I’m telling you: Emails are not designed for that kind of communication, not only because they allow the reader to inject (or miss!) emotion at incorrect times, but also because long emails take so long to type out, spellcheck, re-type, re-spellcheck, etc. etc. etc.
I wanted to give a few thoughts on how to email well–thoughts based on experience in years past dealing with “unique” church members and wordy emailaholics. And it goes without saying, I hope, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve broken every rule listed below, and have been (and sometimes am) exactly the kind of “unique” church member that I would describe in my writing. We’re all works-in-progress, right?
1. Keep it short. Seriously. Along the lines of ”You catch more flies with honey,” I say “You get more positive responses with short emails.” Don’t explain every angle of your opinion; give the skeleton of things and let them ask when they feel they need clarification.
2. Say only nice things in emails, and save bad things for speaking in person.
Remember in high school when you got a note from your crush in which you found out they didn’t like you? You were able to read the rejection letter over and over again, feeling less and less human every time. Don’t afford someone the opportunity to do that with your emails. Instead, let them simmer on the good things–encouragement, approval, and positivity–so that when you have to confront them about something in person, you’ve got to burn through a lot of relational collateral before you start operating in the red.
3. Don’t swing, especially if they tee it up. I got an email at a previous church from a guy who simply didn’t like the way I led the service–especially the music. It was a link to an article bashing rock music in church, and all he wrote in the email was, “What do you think about this?” Ooooh man, I could have sent back a line-drive pointing out the complete lack of biblical groundedness of the article’s key components, but after writing a few penetrating sentences, I backed off and just thanked him for sending the article. I noted that the author made clear points, and that there was some truth to what was written. That’s it.
I’m pretty sure he wanted a major-league response that would initiate some email sparring, but I decided to simply affirm his eagerness to make our church a great church that focused solely on Christ. Regardless of where he and I differ in our music preferences, we agree on that.
Well I’m sure there are plenty of other great email habits out there… any that you have found helpful? Any that you have tried and found detrimental?