Three Phases To Email Sensitivity
The neurophysiological dynamics of understanding each emailmessage is
very complex. From that complexity, three basicphases float to the top
that you will want to becomefamiliar with. I'd like to label these:
(1) the associationphase, (2) the connection phase, and (3) the
reaction phase.Let us look at each of them and discover how the writer
and readercan assume a more active role.
In the Association Phase, the sender's words are read andconverted to
an image in the reader's mind, optimally it shouldbe the same image
the writer held in his mind. Sometimes, thewriter's words lack enough
information and the recipientcannot grasp the image. The word count
has nothing to dowith the creation of an image. I have read long
emails thatdance around any possibility of creating an image even
ifthe recipient could read between the lines.
The first question I ask myself when receiving an email is:"Is what
they are saying giving me enough information so Ican form a clear
image?" If not, I ask, "Am I in an openspace at the moment to
translate this image?" Sometimes,when pressed for time or there's too
many thoughts swirlingin my head, the space isn't available. If not in
the rightspace, I move the email to a "to be read later" subfolder,and
schedule a follow-up time to reread.
Later, after returning, and in a good space to reread, andthe image is
still not appearing, I send a reply email tothe sender asking for
clarity. My language usually goessomething like this: "Thank you for
your email. I have readit several times and can't seem to form a clear
image ofwhat you are asking. Could you please ask again in adifferent
way so that I can give it my full attention and therespect it
If the email covers several subjects that are confusinglyintermixed, I
will also include some additional languagelike this: "When I write
emails with various topics, I findit beneficial to create separate
topic titles that focus onwhat comes next. Could you possibly do this
to add to theclarity?"
It is the sender's responsibility to convert their imageinto words.
They should have the right words thatthe reader can transform back
into the same image given.Don't take on the writer's responsibility,or
makeassumptions, it only leads to miscommunication.If you do, the
image they form of youwill be off kilter and negative.
The Connection Phase. When writing your response, you willwant to make
sure that the reader receives a clear image of whatyou are sending as
This means that your words need to match the return imageyou want to
convey. If the topic is about apples, you donot want to add an orange
in the middle of the apple image.Match apples to apples first because
that was responding tothe original image.
If you need to add an orange for topic support, place theinformation
after the apple discussion so as not todistort the original image.
This lets the receiver digestthe apple and then tells them that
another image is about tocome. Their mind will prepare the space for
the new image.When offering the orange, tell them the purpose of
theorange and why you are adding the image. This way thereader knows
how to open a new file.
Another question I like to ask myself, after writing andbefore
sending, one you might like to use, "Will the readerbe able to file
the image I'm sending in the same folderthey began with?"
Our brains file information just as if we were droppingfiles in a
filing cabinet manner.
Instead of just telling the reader, show the reader theimage, and what
folder to tuck their image in. The readeris expecting this answer. If
they don't receive it, theywonder what to do with the image, it
doesn't match any filein their cabinet. This splits their focus, slows
connection, or can even halt the connection in toto.
I am sure you have your own favorite topic transitionphrases; here are
seven of my own. When you give thesetransition phrases a line of their
own, the receiver's brainacts quickly to note an orange is coming.
1. Let me guess what you might be thinking.
2. As odd (unusual) as it may seem...
3. I am not at all surprised.
4. There's a story that goes with this, and I will get tothis in the
5. Let me see if I can make this a little easier.
6. Its hard to believe, but...
7. In other words,...
The Reaction Phase. Writing an email response is not thesame as
speaking to that person. You don't have theimmediate feedback from
their body language, their silence,or huh, when it isn't clear.
Connecting via email with itstime lapse also causes difficulty. You
experience the samething when you call, leaving a voice mail, and the
partyreturns your call days later. If you don't state in thevoice mail
what you are calling about, or the person doesn'trestate the purpose
when they call back, your mind takesmoments looking for the
appropriate filing cabinet and file.Sometimes I receive a response
back several weeks later andthe original email I wrote isn't included.
Then I must stop tothink or even hunt for the original email; a very
I find it best to begin a returning response with a "this iswhere we
left off" paragraph. Don't assume the reader stillholds the previous
image in their mind. They don't. Manyimages came and went during that
space and the previousemail sits in their inbox, file folder, or
cabinet or worsedismissed due to lack of connection, in order to
It is important to reread the email before hitting send.Not just for
grammar or spelling but to see that you conveythe right image. It is
the time to ask, "Did I convey theappropriate image with a file folder
connection?" If yes, thenhit "send".
(c) Copyright 2005, Catherine Franz. All rights reserved.
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