I am sure you have heard of the brouhaha that has been swirling around the media regarding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her failure to use the State Department’s email when conducting official business. As this saga unravels and the possibility of subpoenas and investigations continues to make the headlines, this issue got me thinking: What if my emails were released?
I think of myself as a very strategic person — that is, I am very careful in what I say, how I say it and, some times, why I’m saying something in the first place. Some people find this trait quite frustrating but I know there can be wisdom in silence. Before the Hillary Clinton/email controversy came to light, I tried to be careful about what I wrote in emails, even if they are going to my closest friends. Now, I’ve had a chance to reevaluate my email practices.
Here are five tips that I follow:
1. Don’t hit send when you are in any type of emotional state. I believe that it is healthy, therapeutic even, to write down your feelings when you are angry, sad or emotional. But never send the first draft of that email. You should always re-write an email written in an angry state at least twice. Then, ask a trusted confidant to review and make changes to it. The goal is to send an email that clearly expresses your position but in an objective manner.
2. Make sure you lay a proper foundation. With emails, I believe more is best. I am not suggesting that you write your emails as dense as a brief, but you need to make sure that you give enough background that your purpose for writing the email is not taken out of context. This is especially important if you hold a differing position than the intended audience receiving your correspondence.
3. Be objective. That can be the hardest trait to exhibit, especially when emotions are involved. Being objective can, however, be the difference between the message being received or not.
4. Take your time. Often, in our fast-paced lives, it seems like we are always in a hurry and on someone else’s timeline. I try to respond to emails within 24 hours. It is my way of extending the other person some level of professional courtesy. There are times, however, when I will ask for more than a day to appropriately respond. I use the additional time to reflect on the issue and to respond in a manner that best reflects my intentions.
5. Use email carefully. Email is tool that can be used effectively to convey certain messages. Sometimes it is best to communicate in written form but other times it is best to pick up the phone. My test is, If I send this email, would I be embarrassed if it were published on the front page of a newspaper? If I’m worried, silence can also be my best tool.
It is always good to learn from mistakes but it may be easier, and perhaps smarter, to learn from another person. Thanks to Hillary Clinton, the lessons regarding email have been reaffirmed for me.