Want to Be Liked? Check Two Things Before Clicking SEND

Get these right so your reader won't get annoyed. Hint: It's not spelling ...

Posted Jul 11, 2016

(c) ruigsantos www.fotosearch.com
Source: (c) ruigsantos www.fotosearch.com

Picture yourself sending the following short email to two people:

"I'll be in the Denver area next month.  Would love to see you while I"m there." 

If you then were to receive the following two responses, which email, the one from Andrew or the one from Jeremiah, would evoke more positive feelings in you? 

Some folks are likely to feel no difference.  If that's you, pay particular attention to this article as you are probably somewhat tone insensitive, which means you especially need to double check for the two factors.

Want to be liked?  Two classic email responses

Andrew's response: "OK."

Jeremiah's response: "So glad you're coming to town next month.  I've been traveling but I'll be back by then. Looking forward to seeing you."

What emotions arose within you as you read these two email responses? 

Which email evoked more positive feelings?

Which produced more of a sense of connection with the writer?

Which produced uncertainty or annoyance? 

And what factors made the difference?

The two relationship-enhancing factors

In defense of Andrew, sometimes shorter is preferable. As a TV detective in the 1950's used to say, "Give me the facts, just the facts."  Andrew's email is efficient, which lets you move right on to your next task.

Note though that Andrew's email omits any emotional content.  And the simple "Ok" also clarifies no details.  The result is both emotional and informational ambiguity. 

If a reader reads goodwill and agreement into the tone of the word Okay, probably Andrew's short response will be fine.  That however is a very large if

The reader could read the word Okay with a tone of disgust.  With resignation.  With annoyance.  Or with delight.  Andrew gave no clues, so the interpretation is all up to the reader's imagination--or worst fears. 

In addition, with so little information conveyed in the email about Andrew's reaction to the visit to town by his friend, the relationship connection will feel sparse.  The bond is likely to feel more like a thread of connection than a rope.

The same two elements make Jeremiah's email likely to evoke positive emotions in readers.

Jeremiah includes both elements in his still-brief email or text message.

1. TONE of positivity, conveyed via the inclusion of positive words

2. DETAILS that clarify what information he has taken in from the prior message and that detail his reaction in response.

These two ingredients make for gratifying in-person dialogue. With texts and emails, they contribute all the more to successful connecting.

1) TONE of positivity

When you talk face-to-face with someone, you hear the emotional tone and see emotions in the speaker's facial expression at the same time as you take in the words.  A positive tone of voice and facial expressions like angry or twinkling eyes, warm smiles, or irritated scowls convey tone easily.

In an email or text message, feelings have to be made explicit in words or emoticons.  Words compensate for the lack of voice tones and facial expressions. 

Tje narrow bandwidth of text-only messages invites misinterpretations, so make your positive emotional tone explicit.  "I like..." "Great..."  "I'm glad that ..." "Looking forward to ...."  Even the simple word "Yes" helps. So does "I agree" of "for sure..."

2) DETAIL the specifics. 

Detailing what you heard and your response is especially helpful in any sensitive or complex discussion, especially one that involves making a decision together, clearing up a misunderstanding, or making plans.

When you reiterate specific details you have just read, the people you are communicating with feel heard.  They know right away if their message was understood correctly, and also if any part of it slipped by without notice.

Conveying that you have digested what someone has written to you signifies respect.  In addition, picking up on the details that they communicated prevents miscommunications and misunderstandings.

All too often on an email or text message, brevity and efficiency can indicate that the reader has not really absorbed key data. Glancing over a message is not the same as really registering the data in it.  Reiteration increases the odds that you have fully taken in the communication.

One of the most common results of a cursory reading of text and email messages is that the receiver does not respond to all the questions in the original communication.  In checking back to be sure that you have responded to all the details, pay particular attention to be sure that you have answered all questions. 

So to be fully likable....

Next time you respond to an email or text message, and especially one that involves making plans or decisions, check back before clicking SEND. 

  • How clearly did you convey the tone? 
  • And did you mention the key facts and/or answer all the questions?

Let's hope the answer to both questions is yes!

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Psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD is author of five books.  The newest, just released, is Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More.

(c) Susan Heitler
Source: (c) Susan Heitler