Determining Social Style by Email
Why did your colleague overreact to your email? Is it you or them? Most email miscommunications result from misunderstanding the tone or meaning of the message and recipients only correctly interpret emails about 50% of the time (Kruger & Epley, 2005). This often leads to misunderstandings, ill will, and the disintegration of trust and connectedness – all of which, if not managed or mitigated, negatively impact relationships and ultimately erode productivity.
What can you do about it? A recent study shows that we can correctly identify someone's Social Style the majority of the time by how they write their email. Using this information you can then adjust for your recipient so that misunderstandings are minimised.
Identifying the predominant email Styles The key is to recognise other people's SOCIAL STYLE and then craft emails that are more likely to be interpreted correctly. Below are brief descriptions of each SOCIAL STYLE and corresponding email communication styles. Driving Styles often use short or no greetings or closings and get right to the point. They rarely mix professional with personal conversation but if they do, the personal comments like “How are you and the kids?” are at the end of the email. They “tell” more than “ask.” Expressive Styles will often present several topics in one email. They like to brainstorm, often write emails that are disorganized and verbose, use greetings and closings, and like emoticons and exclamation marks. They also “tell” more than “ask.” Analytical Styles are apt to be slow in responding, often ask for more information or clarity, usually use short or no greetings or closings other than names, prefer to speak of specifics rather than to brainstorm, and will present information in a well-organized format. They “ask” more than “tell.” Amiable Styles use greetings and closings, will talk as much about you as themselves, are laid back and easy to direct and redirect, will usually “go-with-the-flow” putting other’s needs ahead of their own, and will ask questions in response to questions. For example: “Where do you want to meet?” They too “ask” more than “tell.” With practice, identifying and adapting to another's SOCIAL STYLE can become routine. Here are some clues: When emailing a Driving Style: craft emails that start with the bottom line and do not refer much to people and feelings, but rather to impact, results and consequences. When emailing an Expressive Style: write emails with energising words that appeal to and challenge these out-of-the-box thinkers. Use a balance of directness and friendliness. When emailing an Analytical Style: they generally require lots of facts and figures. So leave the bottom line for the end of the email and be very precise with word choices. When emailing an Amiable Style: write emails that are friendly. Make suggestions rather than issuing directives and show your appreciation. Reference: 1. Email in style: Improving corporate email communications with employees at remote locations: A quantitative study. Firari, F. October 2007.