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:

  • Schedule a dedicated time each day to review and respond to emails
  • Don’t skim emails, read them in their entirety
  • Pause before responding and think through your response
  • Clarify your expectations and demonstrate an understanding for what’s being asked
  • Schedule a follow-up phone call or meeting if you have responded more than twice to a thread for quicker resolution and greater understanding

What other tips would you offer when responding to emails?