“The email greeting, no one’s favorite thing to write even in the Before Times, has been exposed by the pandemic for its stodgy emptiness; a hollow, yet necessary, formality,” writes New York Times “Smarter Living” columnist Tim Herrera. “But now we’re forced to consider what we’re actually saying when we’re really not saying much.”
“When the pandemic first hit, it felt so crazy, because there were deadlines that still needed to be met, so you were emailing people,” says Liz Fosslien, author of No Hard Feelings, which examines how emotions affect our work lives. “Like: ‘Hello, hope everything is OK given that the world is crumbling to pieces. Do you have that paper I needed?’”
So, what is appropriate now? How can we write an email and be casual without seeming inauthentic, or be personal without breaking boundaries? Should we try out a little humor, even though for many there’s not much that seems funny right now? According to Fosslien, a lot of that depends on your recipient.
Before sending your next email, give it what Fosslien calls an “emotional proofread.” Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. Consider what you know about this person, your relationship with them, and what they might be going through. “A quick gut-check before you hit send could save the receiver from unintended anguish.”
Do you have a go-to email greeting you are using these days, and do you ever adapt it according to specific circumstances? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
10/6/2020 11:12:10 am
These days, I'm even more mindful of the task and relationship elements of communication. What task are we accomplishing? What is appropriate and kind given our current relationship? The worry that comes with all the...things...sucks brain power and makes it even more likely that reading the between the lines will take an unintended turn. So I start with the task and try to make it as un-taxing as possible to follow up. These are work emails, after all. Get to the point and don't make them work too hard.
10/6/2020 01:17:01 pm
I also start by getting to the point of what I am after, sometimes starting with “Just wondering how the document is coming along that you were working on for ..... I am hoping (or need) to have the whole ... completed by .... “. Or switching the order.
10/6/2020 02:03:04 pm
Thanks for this Barbara. So from the very start of the email you clarify what you are asking of the other person. And then end with something relational. Have you purposely avoided the now over-used niceties of Covid-world? One more question for Barbara and Julia: Do you create subject lines that say exactly what you want?
10/6/2020 11:52:06 am
Such an important message, Julia. We have been working hard to make our emails short, organized and easy to skim. We know what it feels like to get a long, rambling email that is hard to digest, and we don't want to do that to people! Interesting that you offer the relationship building/strengthening at the end. We have been including 1-2 sentences at the beginning. Will think more about your idea. Thanks for sharing your insights with our digital community.
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