Writing an email in English probably takes more time and effort than it does in your own language. So â€“ especially when youâ€™ve got an inbox full of mails to reply to – it can be tempting to only write to someone when you have to and then keep it brief and to the point. And, of course, there are plenty of situations where thatâ€™s exactly whatâ€™s called for: a clear, concise message.Â
On the other hand, if there are people around the world who you work closely with, yet rarely meet in person, email may well be your main channel of communication. And then itâ€™s a pity to keep communication to the bare minimum and miss out on opportunities for building and maintaining relationships. So what other options are there?Â
The same old phrases
Word seems to have got around that Brits, for example, appreciate a friendly start to an email before you get down to business. And so a lot of people write â€śHow are you?â€ť at the beginning. Itâ€™s a start, but itâ€™s not enough to build up a relationship. If someone always writes that, I donâ€™t know whether theyâ€™re genuinely interested in how I am or not. And I end up writing something along the lines of â€śFine, thanks. Hope you are too.â€ť And to be honest we could just as well have skipped the pleasantries and got straight down to business.
(I also wrote about the phrase Please donâ€™t hesitate to contact me a while ago.)
Make it real
How can you do it better? For me the key is variety and personalization. Perhaps you already know what the weather is like in the recipientâ€™s city at the moment. If not take a moment to look it up. Then you can write â€śHow are you coping with all the snow at the moment?â€ť or â€śHope youâ€™re keeping well in spite of the cold, wet weather.â€ť Or on Mondays instead of â€śHope you had a nice weekendâ€ť, how about â€śDid you have a chance to enjoy the sunshine at the weekend? Here in MĂĽnster it certainly felt like spring is on the way.â€ť
Try a little small talk
The next step can be to offer a little extra information to someone youâ€™re in regular contact with. So instead of writing â€śCould you send me the information by the end of this week, please. Iâ€™m not in the office next weekâ€ť, you can write â€śCould you send me the information by the end of this week, please. Iâ€™m off skiing in Austria next week.â€ť This gives the recipient opportunities for small talk Ââ€“asking you where youâ€™re going exactly, wishing you a nice holiday, asking you how it was afterwards, etc. Keep your eyes open for similar openings in the emails you receive and ask a question or make a comment. As with all small talk, keep it nice and light.
Go the extra mile
Make an extra effort. How about writing specifically to say thank you to someone if theyâ€™ve done you a favour or were particularly helpful? Or you could send a mail to congratulate someone on a promotion or the successful completion of a project.
Perhaps youâ€™ve come across an interesting link on a topic you know your colleague or business partner is interested in â€“ send it to them. But be selective, donâ€™t bombard them with links to articles which they are very likely to have already seen or which are only vaguely related.
Of course, you could just add the link or a sentence saying thank you or well done to your next email. But Iâ€™m convinced that wouldnâ€™t have the same impact. Taking the time to writing a separate email is what people really appreciate.
These are just a few ideas. Itâ€™s all about recognizing and creating opportunities to build stronger relationships with colleagues and business partners â€“ wherever theyâ€™re based.
Do you need individual support with emails? Â MyÂ email coachingÂ offers just that.Â