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Get the Right Person to Read Your Email, Using Strengths

Get the Right Person to Read Your Email, Using Strengths

Get the Right Person to Read Your Email, Using Strengths

Emails are probably the most common form of writing we do in our adult lives, and yet there's almost no formal training for it. You can take a class or hire a tutor in order to write academic papers, fiction, grants … but for the "simple" email, you just have to figure it out yourself. Thankfully, strengths can help.

The single most important thing to keep in mind when you're writing an email is actually the same thing you should think about with any form of communication: Who is your audience? This question is deceptively complex. It's not just a matter of, "Who's on the To: line?" We should also be asking, "What do they already know about this topic? Am I trying to inform them, persuade them or give a call to action? What would that action be?"

When you consider the people you need to engage with your email, don't think about the golden rule; instead, let the platinum rule be your guide. That is, don't write as you'd like to read; write for the person you want to reach. Some tasks or questions are like catnip to people with certain dominant strengths. Are you trying to entice someone with Responsibility to come in and make sure every box gets checked? Or perhaps you'd like an Ideator to be inspired to generate some new angles you haven't considered. Maybe you need someone with Harmony to pull a group together. You want to use the right words to catch the attention of the person whose involvement you seek.

What does your intended audience like to get involved with?

Do they always jump into a brainstorming session, or are they the type who volunteers to write the to-do list? Do they light up at the prospect of a meet-and-greet, or are they more of a "come up with our long-term vision" person? Make sure the parts of your topic that will naturally appeal to your teammates are covered in your email. You won't get it right every time. But even if the whole email doesn't speak to a specific person, every person can find the part that resonates with them.

How does your intended audience best sort information?

Some people want a lot of clarifying information, and some start to glaze over at the mere mention of background material. Consider whether your contextual details can be put into an attachment -- there for those who want it; easily skipped for those who don't.

Think about relationships as well. Does your audience need to know who will be involved ahead of time? Do they need there to be a lot of different types of people, or do they need a close friend's involvement to be comfortable? Consider whether you should highlight the team members' names or backgrounds in the email.

"Gosh, Mel," you might be thinking. "This sounds almost like you're writing a different email for every person you want to get involved! Do you have high Individualization?" Well, yes, I do, but that's not the point. I'm not saying you should write 15 separate emails to get the 15 people on your team revved up, but you should have something in your email that speaks to each of those people. The email you write about a certain topic should look different, depending on who you send it to. After all, your recipients have a variety of dominant strengths. Your email should reflect that, and not be one-size-fits-all.

Mel Kepler's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Communication, Positivity, Activator and Woo.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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