Networking for Your Ideal Clients (July 1, 2008)

Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network Meeting
The Junior League of Houston
1811 Briar Oaks Lane
Houston, TX
July 1, 2008  11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

For more information, go to

The Trouble with Email

Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.

“I send out this simple, straight-forward email, then I get all this negative reaction. I don’t get it.”

Misconstrued Emails

Lawyers and law firm administrators that I coach report this to me a lot. Emails are informal and easy to send quickly, so we often zip them off without rereading them to see how they might sound to the reader. The recipients of the email then supply the tone of voice, cadence and volume to it, which can dramatically affect the tenor of the message.

We send out something like “Don’t forget to sign up by Tuesday!” In our minds we hear the polite, encouraging voice of a flight attendant on the intercom reminding us to keep our seatbelts fastened during the flight. Our reader, however, hears the edgy voice of an eighth grade math teacher admonishing an unruly class. If there is any history of friction or conflict between sender and reader (as frequently happens with opposing counsel, subordinates who have been “counseled” or partners in competition for firm resources), the reader may hear the threatening bark of a drill sergeant.

Why is that? Most of us can’t type as fast as we can speak, so we tend toward brevity and directness in our emails. Brevity in conversation often comes across as curt, disinterested, rude or commanding, unless we soften it with a cheery or concerned tone. In email, the reader inserts the tone themselves, and they often don’t supply the most cordial tone.

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