Listening As An Ally Through Email

Every day we take in a lot of information, especially when it comes to our email. So how do you tackle active listening when reading and responding to email? Recently I received an email request that wasn’t clear to me. It could have been the note itself, or the fact that it was a Friday morning and my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. I paused and reread it and it still wasn’t clear. There was something missing and I didn’t know what, so I reached out to my colleague. When she had a moment, she came over and we had a quick in-person chat. She helped clarify and I was able to successfully execute on the task. Success!

Sometimes when we’re asked to do something a little differently than we might think, we unconsciously get defensive. It helps to step back and if it’s not clear, a quick chat or IM is a lot faster and more efficient than writing emails back and forth.

In working for a large company and being on a global team that’s spread out across 3 regions, there’s not always that luxury of a phone call or personal connection. So how do you make it work in those situations? Weekly meetings for regular content discussions have been my go-to. There’s a core team that collaborates for internal communications translation and writing support that meet via teleconference and we have really benefited from it. We still email throughout the week as needs come up, but the call helps paint the bigger picture of larger campaigns and allows for new ideas to be shared and more detailed questions to be asked and answered. And sure, there’s still the occasional follow-up email, but there’s always a call that provides a consistent outlet for both sides to give constructive input.

Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:

What other tips would you offer when responding to emails?

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About the author


Margie Dolch is a senior communications specialist and Celanese’s social media manager. She is known for her loud laugh, internal communications celebrity status and is an intranet geek. She’s been a fan of storytelling her entire life and enjoys jogging. She’s been married to her best friend for 13 years and is a mom of 3 awesome kiddos.

There are 2 comments. Add yours.

  1. Gabriel Fernández says:

    Excellent post Margie, applying one of the four keys.

    My comment:

    If it is possible, to take better the phone and talk person to person using paraphrases to understand better the message, avoiding create a chain of emails sometimes.

  2. Ken Van Der Wende says:

    A vital and critical topic relative to our work processes and our cultural transformation. We can often pause a bit longer before hitting “send” considering “how” what we have written will be received.

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