4 Steps to Getting Your Emails Actually Read

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We live in a world that communicates in small bursts and at the speed of light. Because of the flood of information we are inundated with, we jump from receiving to reacting, without even a moment of pause between the two. But it is in that moment that you can change relationships and create opportunities by taking the differentiating approach of responding thoughtfully, and showing that you genuinely care. Your personal satisfaction and influence will both skyrocket. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Get your filters working.

You will need to clear the information decks to make time for the stuff that really matters (Steps 2-4). I’m sure you have a good spam filter, but go beyond this to avoid even opening a well meaning e-mail from an associate or industry source whose subject could be translated into something like “Contains Well-meaning but Worthless Information.” Save this type of e-mail for the rainy day that never comes.

Step 2: Be a world-class listener.

Every time you are hearing or reading information from a person you care about, focus on it. Take your self-focused lens and turn it around. Read an email completely; don’t just read the first sentence and assume you know where it’s going. When somebody is talking to you about a subject that is important, don’t multitask.

Step 3: Pause.

Think about the source of the information. What is the issue at hand and how does it look to that person? What is her perspective? What does this person need? How does she prefer to communicate? Unless it’s a complete stranger, you can come up with the answers to these questions fairly quickly, usually in a matter of seconds. Integrate what you’ve heard and what you know with your own experience. Consider how your insights allow you to add meaning to the subject or help solve a problem.

Step 4: Offer clear, thoughtful ideas and communication in response.

Provide a response that gives the person what she needs and shows her that you’ve listened carefully and care enough to consider the issue from more than one angle, your own. Your response will be more meaningful than anything else she receives that day, increasing her perception of your intelligence and ability to add value.

Does it take more time to communicate this way? A little. But, in my experience, you are better off taking the extra ten to fifteen seconds to frame your answer with the recipient in mind, with a goal of adding value. Your response will be level, valid, and will build trust by reinforcing that you care enough to supply a thoughtful answer.

Think about it the next time you are about to fire off a cryptic and less-than-helpful e-mail. Instead take the approach that is more personally satisfying and raises your perceived value.

Mark Hopkins is the author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap For An Exceptional Career. He earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy.