5 Ways Productive Email Dialogue Breaks Down

Productive email dialogue is not complicated if you are mindful of yourself and the people you communicating with.

Have you ever had a face-to-face conversation that seemed to only flow one-way? You just sat there as the other person talked and talked about their job or their family or their vacation… or whatever, never giving you a chance to participate.

When we write email, what we write is almost always about our needs, experiences, ideas. That makes sense of course, but that isn’t dialogue – that is telling, and if you have one simple message to tell (like Thursdays 10:30 Sales meeting agenda attached), and your audience is expecting it, then that works. But, if you need to communicate… email dialogue is more complicated and you have to think about different things.

To have a productive email dialogue, great communicators go beyond their needs to intentionally have a conversation… and this is a lot more difficult than we think. For example, an above average communicator is self-aware, they take the time to confirm their message is understood… and they constantly evaluate the emotional impact of their message (email always have an emotional impact). Writers also acknowledge that no two people are alike, so they consider the communication styles, needs and work environments of the people they email. That’s a lot to consider.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To help you do all of this, the following are 4 ways productive email dialogue breaks down so that you can avoid them.

Not Engaging The Individual

If someone is not engaged a productive email dialogue is not possible.

This may be because someone may have no interest in the subject. It may also be that their attention may be distracted by something or someone else (speaking with or listening to someone else or if they are reading your email on a smart phone).

If you know this may happen, find ways to make your email relevant to their success. Bottom-lining is one great solution (see below).

Discounting Information

When someone dismisses the information being shared.

This may be because the reader / listener doesn’t value or respect the person or the information being presented. If the reader doesn’t care about your story they are not going to read your email with their full attention.

Make sure you send your email only to the people who need to know… and use Cc: properly. Don’t automatically send to people as a way to escalate your need/request… and bottom-line your message (see below).

Misinterpreting Your Message

This happens often with email because vocal inflection and body language is not experienced.

It can also happen when the writer uses words or jargon that the reader does not know. Most readers (and listeners), will subconsciously guess / assume the intended meaning.

The result is that an email may be interpreted as bossy or the message may be misunderstood completely. This is especially true if the reader is very busy or having a bad day – something the writer likely has no control over but is just one more reason to keep your message simple, polite and considerate of their needs.

Over-detailing Email

Like the name suggests, when someone gives far too much detail his or her audience shuts off and doesn’t read anything. This happens in email, face-to-face, meetings, presentation and all other communication.

This often happens because the writer or speaker is passionate about what they are communicating but are not considering what their audience needs at that moment. Sometimes the short story is the best story.

Technology Etiquette (Tech Etiquette)

Technology etiquette is a growing challenge in business. It is about being mindful of when you should use your technology and when you should leave it alone. It’s important to be aware of how your use of technology impacts you and those around you.

Technology etiquette training focuses on the behaviours you should and should not emulate and the impression you create when you use your smartphone or tablet in the company of others, in meetings and/or when you are with or on the phone with clients. Our training looks at the ‘What’ and the ‘Why.’


The above are 5 email tips you should be aware of when you write and read email. You may be making assumptions that are hurting your ability to be as productive as you can be.

I want to leave you on a positive note, so here is one email tip you should always do.

Know What You Want – Then Design Your Dialogue Backwards

Most often this is called Bottom-lining or Getting To The Point.

Grab your readers’ attention by putting your action item at the top of your email. Follow your action item with your facts and logic as support information. Designing backwards to how we often write email lets your reader know the context of your support information if and when they read it… which make you and your email dialogue more relevant to them.

Happy email communication.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates business etiquette courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

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