Think First and Avoid Apologies

The following was written by Power Presentations’ Program Director and guest blogger, Tanya Fruehe.

One practice all professional writers have in common is that they compose many drafts of their work. Granted novelists and non-fiction authors have the luxury of time, but even journalists, although pressed for deadlines, always rewrite their articles. This is an indispensable part of any creative process, and it involves what is called spaced learning, or the practice of pausing between drafts to enable your ideas to ripen.Multiple drafts of your work enable you to deliver your best and final draft. Unfortunately, most business people, always pressed for time do not employ this valuable practice—particularly in email.

recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “You Can Recover From a Snippy Email, But Prepare to Grovel,” by Elizabeth Bernstein cautions that it’s a good idea not to respond to emails in a hastily composed draft and hit the SEND button. The article goes on to give advice on what to do before you compose an email. It quotes Pamela B. Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Corona del Mar, California, who said, “Before hitting send, you need to ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Do I want an outcome where someone throws a coffee cup at me? Or do I want an outcome where we work toward a solution?” Follow Ms. Rutledge’s advice: before sending make sure you have chosen the right words for the right outcome. Allow your thoughts and words to evolve over time. Incorporate the art of spaced learning into your daily email routine.

Most of Bernstein’s article focuses on how best to apologize or strategize a recovery after writing a snippy email rather than on how to prevent yourself from ever writing one in the first place.

If you receive a snippy email or even a ordinary email, every business man or woman should apply the process of spaced learning. This advice is even more important in today’s fast-moving mobile world. Compose a draft and save it for an interval of anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Whenever you return, inevitably you will find words, phrases, sentence, or expressions that need a rewrite.

When you write an email always keep your goal, or call to action in mind.  This may require you to take a few extra minutes and walk away from your first email draft so that you can come back with fresh eyes. New ideas will emerge and you will present yourself more efficiently in all of your communications.

It’s up to you. You can blast out a 50-word email and hit send but then you might be stuck having to follow Elizabeth Bernstein’s apologizing strategy, or you can take a few extra minutes to allow for spaced learning. Read those 50 words again, make a few edits and then send off a polished email.