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Am I Being Sarcastic?

Supposedly people misinterpret the tone and intent of emails half the time. Let that sink in. How many emails do you send a day? A few tips to make sure you fall in the right half:

  • Don’t use sarcasm. Studies show that it’s incredibly hard to convey correctly, especially the more senior you are. If you do use it, explicitly call it out.

  • Be more positive than feels natural. Emails tend to be read more negative than intended, so do a quick scan after writing to see how you can tweak toward positivity. A simple switch like using “situation” instead of “problem” can make a big difference.

  • Explicitly express your emotions. Don’t leave it up to chance. If you are happy to do something, say, “I’d be happy to do that.” If the feeling is negative, you might explore using a different medium, like picking up the phone.

  • Earn terseness. Don’t default to super short emails (like one-word ones) until you know someone well. A bit more context prevents misunderstanding.

  • Ask for feedback. Ask your team for explicit feedback on your communication. Trust me, you’ll learn.

The issue with email is that we have no context in how people are reading it. Assume that your email is going to bed read in the worst light possible. Would you still hit send?


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