So much of what we do relies upon email and other forms of written communication. This is especially true these days when so many of us do not have the luxury to saunter down the hall and chat with colleagues – or travel to a client site regularly to touch base. I wrote this article a couple of years ago for a publication that has since gone defunct. I thought it was worth repurposing here. I hope it is valuable.
I bet this has happened to you. You get an email, you need to respond to, so you fire off a response that you think is benign. And at a computer across town or across the world, your recipient opens the mail – and completely misunderstands your message. Your phone rings and your client (or maybe worse, your boss) is on the phone asking you what in blazes did you mean in that email. The conversation progresses and soon you are both laughing. After just a few minutes of conversation the misunderstanding is cleared up – and the relationship is saved.
Written messages are often misunderstood because they lack the context of a tone of voice or the visual cues that come with body language that we rely on when we talk on the phone or meet face to face. We all receive and process information through our own unique lens based on how we view the world around us.
Before you hit send on that next important email ask yourself a few questions about the person you are writing to.
- Are they outspoken or more reflective preferring to keep their thoughts to themselves? Do they act quickly, maybe even impulsively or do they tend to be more cautious and slower to act?
- Are they skeptical and questioning of ideas and other? Or are they more warm and accepting?
By using the research validated Everything DiSC model, a likely picture of this person’s style begins to come in to view.
Understanding a person’s overall style provides a window into how to communicate more effectively. Full disclosure: everyone is a blend of all styles but people typically exhibit the style inclination of either the “D”, “i”, “S”, or “C”.
What does all this mean for my email and written communication?
For the D style.
Get to the point quickly. They value action and challenge. Appeal to their preference for results and quick actions. Don’t appear unconfident and don’t get personal. Highlight actions you want them to take. Only provide data and detail if asked to do so. Keep your communication short and to the point. They won’t be shy about expressing their doubts and challenging information they don’t agree with.
When writing to an individual with the D style
- Name, no salutation i.e. “Karla”
- Lead with a result that could pique their interest
- Request an action
- Give them a choice on next steps
Everythng DiSC offers immediately applicable solutions to improve productivity. I’d like to call you Monday the 25th to show you the results you can expect if you decide to partner with us. Is afternoon or morning better?
For the i Style
For the i style, be personable. They value action and collaboration. Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Share something personal in order for them to connect with you. They respond well to warmth and openness. Emphasize possibilities and collaborative relationships where they can be social. Mention any mutual connections that you have. They respond well to visual communications and prefer more informal tones.
When writing to an individual with the I style, consider following this formula.
- Informal salutation i.e. “Hi there Karla”
- Make a connection i.e. mention mutual friends or colleagues
- Be friendly in delivering your message
- End upbeat with a friendly request
“Hi there Karla,
It was great to meet you at the Chamber meeting last night. As I mentioned I am a facilitator at Everyday DiSC. You mentioned that your company is struggling to get the most out of your product teams. I’m here to support you as you consider various alternatives to improve their performance in any way that you need. Let’s chat on Wednesday. Just let me know the best time for you and I’ll book it!
Talk with you soon.
For the S style
For the S style, be reassuring. They value stability and collaboration. Appeal to their cautious nature by giving plenty of details that clearly show that you have carefully thought about matters that may concern them. They prefer environments where people are warm and cheerful. Ask them for their thoughts and avoid action-oriented language which they may view as aggression. Give them plenty of time to consider and process information before asking for a response.
“Good afternoon Alice
I was talking to our mutual friend Al and he told me he thought you might be interested in learning more about Everything DiSC. My role is to help organizations and individuals find the best way to strengthen relationships and manage conflict. I’d love to talk with you to show you how our products and services might help you or I can send you a link so you can take the assessment and experience it for yourself. Send me a few times that would be good for us to talk or meet and I’ll add you to my schedule.
I look forward to meeting you.
For the C Style
For the C style, be precise and accurate. They value accuracy and the status quo. Provide details and data to support what you say and make sure you are correct. They value restraint and formality. Present all options, no detail is too small to share. Don’t get personal with them. Stick to facts and be prepared for them to push back asking for proof as they can be highly skeptical. Give them time to process information before requesting a decision or that they take an action. Use bulleted lists and avoid making emotional claims not supported by facts.
“Good morning Jim,
I am writing today because you downloaded a report about the Everything DiSC Productive Conflict assessment from LinkedIn.
Productive Conflict is the newest Everything DiSC assessment. This assessment offers all the benefits of our Everything DiSC family of products.
- Offers solutions for individuals at any level of an organization
- Includes a variety of assessment tools for growth throughout your career
- Is time-tested and extensively researched
- Is available in multiple languages
- Is used in more than 70 countries around the globe
The Productive Conflict assessment delivers the following results.
- Delivers a profile that sparks meaningful and purposeful discussions that begin with understanding oneself
- Puts assessment insights into action
- Creates empathy and understanding of other styles
- Helps individuals develop a broader understanding of themselves and their relationships, explores their potential and assist them in building more effective relationships.
I’d like to answer any questions you have about the report you downloaded as well as share the extensive research that goes into creating the Everything DiSC product line and some case studies of organizations that have used our tools effectively. I can present this information to you in person or I can put together the supporting information and forward it to you for you to read and discuss by email or phone.
Thank you for your interest in the Productive Conflict assessment and for your time. I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience.
See the difference?
Now undoubtedly, this is just a tool. But it may help you to be more effective in your communication if you have insight in to how your addressee reacts in various situations. Good luck!