Jul 28, 2009

Frequent complaints with e-mail at the workplace

"It seems that Peter has nothing else to do than send e-mails. I get his messages all the time. They are very long and difficult to understand".

"Mary is very inconsiderate: She keeps sending chain letters. Doesn’t she know that I’m very busy and have no time for those foolish things? They also fill up my inbox and prevent other important messages from arriving".

"Joe always copies messages to the boss: He cannot be trusted. I know we must document our work, but why didn’t he call me first? We would have clarified the situation and then write a message with what we agreed on".

If to this we add the great number of "spam" messages we receive, and the number of copied messages that are useless to us, we can understand the increasing stress that managing e-mails produces in our work.

The productivity of this tool is greatly associated to our personal reputation. That is, our effectiveness in managing e-mail is reflected by whether we achieve the purpose of a message or not.

For example, if we write "too many" e-mails, it is likely that recipients will start to ignore them, particularly those that are in the "Cc" field.

If we want to improve our effectiveness in the use of e-mail, we need to understand how they act, and what do recipients value more in our written messages, in order to positively affect their perceptions and attitudes.

Likewise, we must deal with each recipient in the most personal way possible, taking into account the emotional impact that written words have and the structure of the e-mail.

Jul 20, 2009

Planning e-mail personal marketing

First of all, we need to be more aware of the fact that we are always marketing ourselves as individuals.

This means that we need to take more into account the fact that we are always affecting the perception others have of us. We are always influencing that perception positively or negatively.

We affect others with what we do or don’t do, and also with what we say or don’t say. So, we start defining our personal marketing and communication plan with the following questions:

* "How do I want to be known and remembered as a professional?"

* "With what values do I want others to associate me?"

The answers to these questions provide the guide we need on the type of actions we must take to positively affect others and obtain the professional perception we desire.

Second, we need to have a wide perspective of who our "clients" are. This can efficiently be established answering the following question: "Who can speak about me, positively or negatively, as a professional and as a person?".

Our marketing strategies and tactics must be oriented towards all of them. Our clients are the individuals with whom we interact directly or indirectly, who are important to us professionally, and who can recommend us to others.

In a society where jobs are so interconnected, "external clients" are just as important for our personal marketing as are our co-workers, including bosses, staff in other departments, and suppliers.

Yes, this answer is very broad because the most frequent marketing mistakes are made in part by underestimating the range of influence that the public or audience with whom we interact as clients have.

Finally, being more aware of our personal marketing implies being more aware of the tools we use to communicate our skills, competencies, values, and benefits. That is, we need to keep our interpersonal communication channels and media fine tuned.

These are made up by all our interpersonal communications, whether face-to-face, telephonic, or through e-mail, and by the form and content we convey through these means. That is, our body and our behavior are like our mobile marketing channels, with verbal and non-verbal messages.

In this context, e-mail increasingly has a greater impact on the professional image we project as individuals.

Therefore, a better understanding of the factors that make written communication effective will allow us to assertively manage those aspects that determine our reputation through this means.

Jul 16, 2009

Our poor brains are definitely suffering information overload

Scientists fear that a digital flood of 24-hour rolling news and infotainment is putting our primitive grey matter under such stress that we can no longer think wisely or empathise with others.

Researches suggests that we may have reached an historic point in human evolution, where the digital world we have created has begun to outpace our neurons’ processing abilities.

The concerns have been raised by published studies which indicate that streaming digital news may now run faster than our ability to make moral judgments.

Rapid info-bursts of stabbings, suffering, eco-threat and war are consumed on a “yes-blah” level but don’t make us indignant, compassionate or inspired. It seems that the quicker we know, the less we may care — and the less humane we become.

One fear is that habitual rapid media-browsing can, ironically, block our ability to develop wisdom.

Researchers at the University of California, announced recently that they had compiled compelling evidence that even the universal traits of human wisdom — empathy, compassion, altruism, tolerance and emotional stability — are hard-wired into our brains.

In Archives of General Psychiatry, Professor Dilip Jeste says that neurons associated with those attributes seem to be sited primarily in areas of the prefrontal cortex — the slower-acting, recently evolved regions of our brain that are bypassed when the world feels stressful and our primitive survival instincts grab the controls.

“Constant bombardment by outside high-intensity stimuli is not likely be healthy. It may prevent people from having an opportunity to digest the information, match it with culturally resonant reactions and then execute well-considered behavioural responses.”, Jeste says.

This concern is reflected in research by scientists at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute.

Their brain-scan studies show that, while we pick up signs of other people’s pain and fear in a flash, it can take significantly longer for our minds to develop socially evolved responses such as compassion.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, used real-life stories to induce admiration for virtue or skill, or compassion for physical or social pain, in 13 volunteers.

Brain imaging showed that the volunteers needed six to eight seconds to respond fully to stories of virtue or social pain — far longer than their brains needed to react at an unemotive level.

“The rapidity of attention-requiring information, which hallmarks the digital age, might reduce the frequency of full experience of emotions, with potentially negative consequences,” the research paper cautions.

Our information flood is about to become a dam-burst. In 2006 the world produced 161 exabytes (an exabyte is one billion billion bytes) of digital data, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. That is three million times the information contained in all the books ever written.

By next year, the total is expected to reach 988 exabytes. Personal data-consumption is growing exponentially: while Westerners continue to watch an average of eight hours of television each week, the time that they spend online rose by 24 per cent between 2006 and 2007, according to a study by Compete, the online market researchers.

“Our poor brains are definitely suffering information overload,” says Felix Economakis, a London-based chartered psychologist who specialises in stress.

“Technology is making quantum leaps, bombarding us with new things to focus on, but we have not been able to catch up and adapt. Our brains’ attention levels are finite. When everything is screaming at us, we start withdrawing so that normally nice people become unempathetic.

“The primitive fear centre in the brain, called the amygdala, operates in terms of fight or flight. Information overload makes it feel under threat and it shuts down higher brain regions that deal with empathy. You end up less likely to support others — but because you feel stressed, you want to be supported by the people around you. They are feeling stressed and withdrawn, too. Everyone is demanding support and not giving it. The irony of high-speed modern mass communication is that no one is actually communicating.”

More info from

Jul 13, 2009

Each e-mail affects your personal reputation

Your success with e-mail is a result of your personal reputation.

How much attention does your messages receive?

How many of them are opened and read?...

And from messages read, how many of them are misunderstood or need a phone call to be explained?

How many of the answers you suppose to get you really get?

All these evidences of your effectiveness with your electronic mails are subject to your personal reputation.

Personal reputation depends on trust and credibility that we have planted in our addressee. So, reputation is a personal capital and competitive advantage.

If you want to be more efficient with your e-mails you should cultivate and protect your reputation as a sender.

Your reputation is the sum of your "hows". In your e-mail at the workplace, reputation is build it on your frequency, style, structure, grammar ... And on the use of best practices in written communication.

E-mail reputaion leads: Arrives to the inbox before your messages, and remains there after your messages are deleted, either enhanced or decreased.

Your reputation records your past, but also creates expectations for the future.

So, after sending an email, what happens to it depends on the image before they grow.

Jul 6, 2009

Communication and attention are the essential components of relationships

We feel we are truly communicating with someone when we get their best attention and they listen to us. But when we feel we are not being paid attention, we feel ignored.

So, when we communicate, what matters is what we make our interlocutors feel with the way we communicate, which explains that people can more easily forget what we say or give to them, but not what we make them feel.

The way to give a correct message can have counterproductive effects, particularly if it is in writing, so many of the unproductive e-mail discussions that take place in companies could be avoided.

People are willing to accept many of the issues they receive in writing if they were delivered orally.

Of course, I imagine that right now you are thinking that those e-mail discussions are justified because they also cover the company’s need to leave a written record of what is said, and you are right, because many times it is essential to document communication processes.

However, e-mail communication in companies would be more efficient if work teams emphasized documenting the agreements and learning experiences that were obtained more quickly through telephone or face-to-face conversations.

In order to have productive and efficient written discussions or clarifications, people must have better writing skills to compensate the non-verbal clues that we normally use in face-to-face or telephone communication.

Our sensitivity towards written words...