Emotionally Intelligent Communication – Your Email Style

Emotionally Intelligent Emails

The 21st century is replete with new technologies that have changed the way we communicate.

On the train this morning I was typing an email to an American colleague on my mobile phone. We were corresponding to negotiate an appropriate time for a Skype call tomorrow. Most of us take this kind of technology for granted now, but just over a decade ago this kind of convenience was inconceivable. I’m still amazed that within minutes of switching on my laptop, I can communicate with a person in another continent at very little cost.

Many of us are now using the internet to stay emotionally connected with family and friends who have emigrated or who are working abroad. And most of us use the internet and emails daily to conduct business. We establish working relationships with both clients and colleagues through the use of emails. Never before in business has written communication been so easy, so powerful and so important to do well.

Your Email Style?

But, have you ever thought about what your emails at work are communicating without you even realizing it?

Whether you are aware of it or not, your emails to colleagues or clients are often influenced by your personality style’s focus of attention and emotional habits. When you become more conscious of this influence, you can modify and enhance your writing style when necessary to communicate with more clarity and efficiency, while ensuring that a healthy relationship is fostered.

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To investigate your “email style”, scan through some of the emails in your workplace outbox today. What do you notice? Are some of them overly inclusive of irrelevant personal information? Or are the messages you send often curt and unemotional? Maybe you can notice a critical tone in some of your wording, or maybe your emails are full of jokes and teasing.

To help you become more conscious of your email writing habits at work (so that you can change them if necessary) we will use a framework of Nine Email Styles, based on the Enneagram personality system. See if you can identify your typical email style and in which contexts you tend to adopt that particular style. You may draw on the strengths, and display the pitfalls of, different email styles in different situations, so consider all of the Nine Email Styles carefully in deciding which ones reflect your email habits.

The Image Triad and Emotionally Intelligent Emails

The first three email styles we will investigate are known as the Image Triad. Broadly speaking, these three styles are concerned with creating a particular impression in their written communication.

The first email style in the triad is called the Creative Innovator, since the focus in communication is on creating an impression of uniqueness, originality, creativity and emotional depth. Their emails tend to focus on personal views, feelings and experiences. Regularly using strong, feeling-toned words and lamentations, people with this style should caution against crowding their emails with too much personal information and dramatic statements. On the positive side this style can be very imaginative and original in translating their ideas into “ear catching” phrasing that really connects with the receiver’s experiences and emotions.

The second style in the image triad is called the Empathic Supporter, since the focus in communication is on creating an impression of being helpful or selfless. Their emails focus on making others feel valued, nurtured and cared for. Regularly giving compliments, asking personal questions and focussing on the other’s feelings and needs, people with this style can make good connections with colleagues and clients over email. However, these individuals run the risk of not communicating directly and clearly what it is that they really want. They need to caution against not attending to the task at hand by overly focussing their email on making a personal connection.

The third style is called the Driven Achiever, since the focus in communication is creating an impression of success. Their emails tend to focus on making a winning impression. Regularly making pitches, selling themselves or describing their many achievements, people with this style can be very effective at using email communication to make a sale or reach their desired goal. However, this style needs to watch out for coming across as arrogant or overly direct. They should also caution against treating all email communication purely as a means to a self-serving and successful end.

If you’ve identified your email style in the image triad, begin to recognize when your attempts to create a unique, selfless or winning impression is getting in the way of the actual message you’re trying to get across. Work out before hand what the essence is of your email message and try to stick to it.

Mental Triad and Emotionally Intelligent Emails

Have you ever received or written an email that was overflowing with ideas, concerns, explanations and abstract concepts that crowded the actual message?

It is possible that you or the author is one of today’s mental triad of email styles. The three styles in the mental triad are concerned with analysis, imagination, understanding, and eliminating uncertainty.

The first style in the mental triad is called the Informed Observer, since the focus in communication is on gathering/giving information and avoiding emotions. Their emails tend to focus on expounding or gathering data while avoiding personal disclosure. Either writing concise briefs or expounding dissertation-type emails, people with this style can construct very detailed and informative communications that leave no stone unturned. However, they may run the risk of being overly concerned with facts and knowledge at the expense of ‘getting to action’ or establishing “written rapport”. In their avoidance of personal and emotional content these individuals run the risk of seeming too impersonal in emails.

The second style in the triad is called the Loyal Trouble-shooter, since the focus in communication is on potential problems or hidden dangers. Their emails tend to focus on highlighting worries and concerns or eliminating ambiguity. Regularly writing about fears and possible constraints, people with this style can be very authentic and open in their emails, often putting unspoken issues on the table – which can lead to positive outcomes. However, this style should caution against seeming overly suspicious and mistrustful in their often complex and analytical-style written communication.

The third style in the mental triad is called the Lively Motivator, because the focus in communication is on being optimistic, energized, and playful. Their emails tend to focus on possibilities, imaginative plans and adventurous ideas. Regularly brainstorming, joking around and jumping between interesting concepts this style can create a wonderful rapport over email that makes others feel relaxed and engaged. However this same writing style runs the risk of avoiding the serious content of the message they’re trying to get across. This style needs to watch out that they don’t avoid attending to necessary details of communication that may create discomfort or emotional negativity.

If you’ve identified your email style in the mental triad, begin to recognize when your emails are becoming crowded with abstract facts, long sentences and analyzing that will only alienate the email reader. Avoid using emails to think out loud and focus more on establishing honest and mutual rapport with the email recipient.

The Instinctive Triad and Emotionally Intelligent Emails

The last three email styles are known as the Instinctive Triad. These three styles are concerned with maintaining a sense of autonomy and expressing their will and vital instincts, so their communication is about getting things done or defining how things should be.

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The first style in the triad is called the Dominant Driver, since the focus in communication is on taking control, using personal force or negotiating towards a desired outcome. Their emails tend to be rather blunt and uncensored. What you read is what you get. Regularly writing in absolutes and imperatives, people with this style should caution against steamrolling with words and seeming closed to dialogue. On the positive side this style’s direct and no-nonsense approach can instil a sense of trust, and get things moving forward quickly when the pressure is on.

The second style in the instinctive triad is called the Fair Mediator, since the focus in communication is on making a harmonious connection with the recipient and avoiding overly strong positions. This can create a gentle and accepting tone in their emails that makes recipients feel at ease. Their emails tend to be long and inclusive of inessential information and reflections that can blur the core of the message. Regularly writing lengthy, repetitive narratives, people with this style should caution against leaving readers uncertain as to what is wanted or being said.

The last of the Nine Emailing Styles is called the Concerned Perfecter, since the focus in communication is on avoiding mistakes and criticism or seeming irresponsible. Their emails tend to be polite, detailed and well-structured, which makes the recipient feel well-informed and respected. A lot of time may be spent on getting one sentence to sound just right so as not to come across as rude or inappropriate. Regularly using a teaching style with “ought to’s” and “shoulds”, people with this style may seem overly critical or prescriptive to their recipients. Getting stuck on perfecting the details of grammar and wording may also slow these individuals down.

If you’ve identified your email style in the instinctive triad, begin to recognize when your emails are not really opening channels of feedback from the recipient. You may also want to watch out for an all or nothing approach that requires the recipient to either agree or disagree with you – which limits creative dialogue.

Emotionally Intelligent “Receiving Styles”

We all have a preferred way of speaking. Some are loud and colourful, while others are quiet and reserved. The same applies to your email writing style. Although writing does not portray body language, tone of voice and inflection, our choice of words and punctuation can really make all the difference. Internet technology and design has also introduced graphics, photographs, interesting fonts and a variety colours that allows you to add spice and character to your electronic communication – use it to your advantage.

To close our focus on emotionally intelligent email styles consider the fact that you also read other people’s emails through the filter of your personality style.

You may find emotional and personal content uncomfortable, while the person who emailed you the latest budget has asked you five caring questions about your family life!! Or you may find your boss’s emails cold and brash when all he does is write instructions. In every form of communication a healthy degree of self-awareness is required. Become aware of what your own emailing style is, and recognize what types of emails tend to get under your skin.

If you tend to read between the lines remember that your interpretation may reflect more about your personality style than about the other person’s intentions. If you tend to just say it like it is, remember that emailing is a legitimate form of workplace relationship building that requires emotionally intelligent communication.

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