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3 weird ways to make E-Mails work for you

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3 weird ways to make E-Mails work for you


No e-mail has any meaning, other than the meaning that you personally choose to give it.I recently received an email that contained the following seven words, and the sender asked me what I thought it meant.


I didn’t say she stole the money


As I read it, I emphasized different words , and each time it gave the sentence a whole new meaning:

I didn’t say she stole the money (Someone else did).

I didn’t say she stole the money (I deny saying it).

I didn’t say she stole the money (However, she clearly did steal it).

I didn’t say she stole the money (It was stolen by someone else).

I didn’t say she stole the money (She has the money for some other reason – perhaps she was given it by someone else).

I didn’t say she stole the money (She stole something else).

Same thing with texts. On Friday last week I sent a text to the Commercial Manager of Woking FC saying “Please invite John M and David H to Monday’s press launch”

He replied “Thanks!”

Did he mean thank you, or was he being sarcastic because it was a) obvious or b) he had already done it, or perhaps he didn’t want them to be invited .

OK – 3 really weird ways to make E-Mails work for you:
1. Assume e-mails you receive are really positive and respond as such. We spend years learning how to talk listen and communicate, then suddenly email arrived…with the “emotions” taken out…so we assign meaning to every email, sentence and word. And we very often assume something is negative, when often it is not. Doctors tell us that worry is not good, so welcome each and every email in your Outlook in-box as if it was an unopened Christmas present. Unwrap it, and read it as if it has come from someone who wishes you well in all of your life.

2. Just before you send an email, read it through in the opposite way to the way you now receive them. In other words, what possible negative, damaging or misunderstandings could your wording create? And change accordingly.

3. Do some NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) on your email replies – the sender begins with “Hi” you reply the same. Use the same number of sentences they did, if they use short words, you do the same etc. and end with the same ending. Then, read it through as under 2 above, and then send.

And if the person you are sending it to reads this, they will read it in a very positive way.

With my love and best wishes!

David X

14 Responses to 3 weird ways to make E-Mails work for you

  1. Great article – and as a follow-up if anyone’s interested, I would strongly recommend reading ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman – it really has opened my eyes as to how subjective and misguided we can be – even when operating with the best intentions.

  2. As somebody who is constantly writing and does a lot of work by email, I completely endorse David’s exhortation to remember that emphasis and tone is missing in email, so people need to be clearer. Emoticons may be an irritant to many and not best suited to business communications and indeed I haven’t yet had a judge look to me as an advocate to explain a ‘8-p’ or ‘8-(‘ in a document, but emoticons came into being to deal with lack of tone and we do need to keep a mental ear on how email can be misread.
    I get it wrong myself from time to time and I would add the idea of writing a difficult email and sticking it in a draft folder for sending later so that there is an added chance of hearing that potential misunderstanding before the other person does.

  3. This hit my desk just as I was working on the quality of written material across my organisation. Great advice from the author and commentators.We use tone proofers in my team to make sure important emails go out with the right feel to them. Very often, the closer you are to the subject matter the more important it is to have that impartial perspective. The message is more important than the author. It’s also spared me any number of embarrassments!

  4. I agree Lewis, emoticons are an irritant and so are people who correct other people’s emails/postings which haven’t been read properly, unless of course I have fallen for your deliberate ploy!?

    • @Cynthia – not quite sure I follow – I didn’t spot people on here symbolically emoting, so I couldn’t be having a dig and I wasn’t correcting anybody, so a little unsure about my ‘ploy’ etc. It was Monday after all.

  5. Don’t think that was meant but it proves the point even more that things should be ready first.

  6. David this came at the perfect time some one had launched an email war and poof…. your advice diffused the issue. Thank You
    I Love the email mirroring very slick !

    with much appreciation

  7. Thank you all for your comments – Jon, Daniel’s book is excellent, Lewis is a lawyer and knows the importance, Paul “tone proofers” what a wonderful idea! Claire glad it helped. David x

  8. I agree that tone proofing is superb as a concept.
    The tone of someone’s email can be so misconstrued by someone at the other end, depending on mood etc.

  9. What if she DID steal the money?
    What IF she did steal the money?
    That’s a great question and a fine example of just how sentences can be miscontrued.

  10. I am giving a warning that ‘she’ may be able to convince a judge that the statement is likely to make a reasonably-minded person think less of her and so damages her reputation.

    Please recollect the recent case of McAlpine v Bercow in which an oblique reference to an accusation was found defamatory.

    Whilst we are discussing meaning and potential defamation, the example does rather demonstrate the need to self-censor when posting on the internet!

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