Working as an E-Therapist comes with the unique challenge of communicating primarily through email. We have all been told, “If it is a tough conversation, pick up the phone and call.” Many times, this is absolutely the best advice.
But what about the countless emails to case managers, parents, schools, and teachers? These aren’t all tough conversations, but they’re frequent and often the only way that we communicate with a majority of our colleagues. That means that their perception of who we are is based entirely on the words we write.
This is a bit of a scary thought, but, fear not, it’s actually a great opportunity!
It’s easy to focus on all of the negative or complicated aspects that are associated with email communication but learning how to set the tone in your emails will help you build lasting relationships with all of the people that surround your students.
So what do you need to do?
First, remember this:
Perception is everything
How do you want to be perceived?
For me, I want my colleagues to perceive me as someone who is friendly and helpful because those are two traits that are important to me in real life, not just an email persona.
Because of this, nearly all of my emails contain these four things:
- Friendly well wish
- Offer to help
They would look something like this…
I hope that you’re doing well!… (Request for something here!)
…. Let me know how I can help!
I hope you had a nice weekend!… (Request for something here!)
…Let me know how I can be most helpful!
In general, it’s just nice to start and end emails this way, but this friendly helpfulness compounds itself over time and paves the way for more difficult, direct, or uncomfortable conversations to happen in productive and friendly ways, too.
Here’s a second thing to remember about perception:
Your intention doesn’t matter
The reader interprets and decides how they will perceive your email. That sounds kind of terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be!
Taking a moment to think about what your reader is experiencing and working on, and then tailoring your email tone to be friendly and helpful, encourages your reader to remember, “Oh right! I like her!” or “He’s a good therapist!”
I find asking for things in soft, more passive ways helps remind colleagues that I am here to help and that we’re on the same team. We live in a fast-paced world and it’s easy to fire off a quick, direct email without taking a moment to be thoughtful, but consider the difference.
Here’s a direct, to-the-point email:
What’s the call-in number for the IEP?
Contrast that with a friendlier tone that only takes a few more seconds to compose:
Hope you’re well.
Can you please send me the call-in number for the IEP tomorrow?
Looking forward to talking to you then!
Sure, it took a few more seconds to write, but which email would you prefer to receive if you were being asked for information? Adding in these little sentences goes a long way toward building relationships.
These tips are all relatively simple and easy to follow, but what about when it really is a tough conversation, or when someone may have forgotten about a deadline?
Here’s the good news, you still control the tone and can encourage a positive perception. One of the major benefits to writing emails is that you can revise, edit, or completely trash any version of an email before you hit send.
You’re steaming mad?
Wait to send the email. Take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, or hug your dog. After you’ve cooled off, revisit the email. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I making it easy for the reader to perceive this email as helpful?
- Does this sentence inspire change or help solve the problem?
- Would I be upset if I got this email?
- Does it really accomplish anything if the person I am emailing knows I’m mad?
After you’ve asked yourself these questions, make some changes to the email as needed, and, if it really is a tough conversation, pick up the phone and call!
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