Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Think Before You Hit Send

E-mail is old hat for most law students, and by now, most of us professors have caught up too. Here's the thing: we often focus on what we are saying rather than how we are saying...er, how what we are saying is communicated. For the former, we have books to help you. But you might want to consider your communication style as well.

The software company WordRake has a wonderful blog post series about e-mail communication, and one piece of information is particularly startling:
“People consistently overestimate their ability to communicate effectively with email.” A 2010 study found that “participants lied 50% more when they negotiated over email compared with pen-and-paper.” One of the reasons, surmised researchers: “Emails are less permanent: it feels closer to chatting than writing a letter.”
What's an e-mailer to do? Your best bet is to think before you hit the send button. Save a draft of your e-mail and revisit it in an hour or two. This approach might increase your odds of responding thoughtfully to an e-mail rather than merely reacting.

You might also consider creating a rule in Outlook to time-delay all your sent e-mails by three-to-five minutes. You can hit send, then change your mind a few minutes later to re-read, double-check who you've sent the e-mail too, and possibly delete the whole thing if you've since come to your senses. This approach can save you from the countless lawyer e-mail blunders that make headlines.

Remember: e-mail is permanent. You can't really retract it once it's been sent, so think twice or four or five times before hitting "send."