Tips For Improving Your Relationship Skills Using Email
Like in all types of communication, it is possible to build and improve your relationship skills through emails.
It is all about knowing how to add personality and balancing the divide between formality and casualness.
Communication has an impact on relationships. It doesn’t matter what type of communication it is or what channel you’re using to communicate. So long as you’re communicating, your relationship is evolving.
If you’re communicating for the first time ever, then you’re creating a new relationship. If you’ve been communicating for some time, then you’re either maintaining the status quo in your relationship or improving it.
Despite these facts, most people discount emails as a suitable medium for creating new relationships or even maintaining existing relationships. But, like all forms of communication, emails can have a big impact on relationships too.
In fact, emails can be quite effective in forming bonds and persuading people toward a specific direction, provided they’re used in the right manner at the right time.
In this article, we will explain how you can use emails to build relationship skills to maintain and improve your existing relationships.
Relationship Skills: Style and Tone of Writing
It is possible that people don’t consider emails as a tool for building relationship skills because they think they’re too impersonal and cold. It is also possible that some people think that they’re not suitable for building or maintaining relationships because they’re contrived.
To simplify these opinions, you can view impersonal and cold as “formal” and contrived as “informal.” If I was to rephrase both these arguments, I could say that emails are not suitable for building and maintaining relationships because (a) they’re too formal and (b) they’re too informal.
These two extremes hint at how emails can be used to boost your relationship skills. This is the fact that if the email you write is neither too formal nor too informal and is balanced in the middle, it becomes suitable for managing business relationships.
It is all about being professional without being detached and being friendly without seeming too artificial. Another way to look at it would be that it is about striking a balance between generic and personable.
This balance, though, is quite subjective. In fact, this balance will change from one email to another. The real marker of this balance is linked with the person you’re sending the email to. You’ll not only have to assess your relationship with them but also their personality.
For instance, if you have a formal relationship with your boss, it would be inappropriate to send a cartoon or joke. At the same time, if you’re the boss, you can send such things to your subordinates.
Similarly, you can’t send an overly friendly email to a client because you need to establish credibility and professionalism. In contrast, if you’re emailing customers, you can take a friendly tone, provided it doesn’t clash with your company’s communication strategy.
Relationship Skills: Always Provide Context
Context is very important when it comes to emails because it keeps the conversation flowing and the recipient interested. In contrast, abruptness is a major obstacle in interpersonal relationships, irrespective of whether it is perceived textually or face to face.
Imagine yourself walking up to a colleague for the first time in the day and telling them how your new client makes you feel without telling them about the new client or the new project first. Or, imagine walking up to someone you don’t know and pitching them with an investment idea. In both scenarios, your relationship skills will suffer.
You’ll make the colleague think that you’re detached, socially inept, and only concerned about work, which will, in turn, result in the colleague taking a figurative step back from you too. Your working relationship will deteriorate from that point onward and only professionalism will keep it from turning into a conflict.
In the case of the new person, you won’t have a relationship at all. The person will not entertain your pitch at all and will be indifferent enough to just walk away.
The same kind of thing happens in emails. You’re just not there to see it. The colleague takes a backward step mentally and emotionally while the new person simply bins the email.
This is why context is everything when it comes to creating or maintaining relationships via email. This means that if you’re emailing a colleague, you need to start with something familiar, followed by a contextual reference to your primary objective. Here’s an example.
“Could you tell me why we’ve hired a second social media manager for the same client?”
Hope you’re doing well (familiarity). I was just reviewing our project allocations and had a question (contextual reference). Could you tell me why we’ve hired a second social media manager for the same client?”
When sending an email to someone you don’t know, you can’t just start with “I need your help.” You need to introduce yourself first and then provide context before getting to the crux of the email. Consider.xs
Could you help me get a review in The Telegraph and The Washington Post?”
I am Percy, VP of Marketing at ABC Ltd (introduction). Jack Collins referred you to me as someone who can help me with public relations (context). Could you help me get a review in The Telegraph and The Washington Post?”
The before example is abrupt and very curt, which will result in instant mental separation from the receiver. The after example, on the other hand, gently introduce the receiver to the objective of the email and improve the chances of a positive response.
Relationship Skills: Learn When to Respect and Ignore Hierarchy
Hierarchy is important in a business because it separates responsibilities and establishes accountability. But hierarchy also tends to be very stringent because it clearly demarcates the relationship between people and naturally prevents relationships from evolving into something more than what it defines.
This means that if you want to develop your relationship skills, you need to learn when to ignore hierarchy. If you’re placed above the other individual, then it is very easy to ignore hierarchical requirements by instilling humor into your email.
This humor could be in the form of lighthearted banter, jokes, or even something lesser like emojis. When you add humor to an email to your subordinate, it sends a message to the subordinate that you’re not a stickler for formality. You give them the green light that they need to relax in your presence and with messages sent to you. You effectively open the door that will slowly lead to a relationship.
The opposite situation is much more difficult. It is very difficult to ignore hierarchy when you’re emailing upward in the hierarchical chain. When messaging your boss, you cannot ignore the hierarchical requirements and have to abide by them rigorously.
But, when it comes to seniors, you’re only expected to defer to their judgment and show respect. Even though this seals off most ways of forming a relationship, there is one still open to you – drawing them out passively.
You can formulate your email in a way as to gently draw them out of the stringent roles that hierarchical rules fix them in. You can do this in two ways.
First, you can drop subjects in your email that you know appeal to your boss.
For example, if you know your boss is interested in football, you can mention something indirect while giving your daily report like:
I’ve started a new training program with my team focused on cooperation. My objective is to have them coordinating seamlessly like Barcelona…”
Similarly, if you know your boss is interested in opera and theatre you can mention something different while giving a project appraisal like:
The team’s performance was excellent. The way they handled the interchange of tasks was flawless. It was like watching a world-class ballet. Even the client was thoroughly impressed…”
Another way to get your boss out of his shell and improve your relationship with him would be to be excessively modest. It comes off as humble too, especially when you know you’ve performed excellently.
More importantly, if your performance is exceptional, your boss would feel compelled to praise you too, which will create a precedence for a closer business relationship. Besides, your team members will appreciate the extra attention too. The easiest way to do this would be to praise your team members while letting your input slide.
One thing to remember here is that this kind of thing only works if your boss is already aware of your excellence and high level of performance.
Emails can be used to develop and improve your relationship skills. The secret to doing this is to find the right balance between formal and informal tone of writing, always providing context, and knowing when to ignore hierarchical restrictions.
CustomersFirst Academy offers comprehensive customer service training designed to help you grow your skills and advance your career.
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