Why Don't People Read My Emails?
by Anne Koproski
So how frustrating is it if your go through the effort of writing a concise email, making it as short as possible to match today’s increasingly short attention spans, culling out specifics in bullet form – all the things you believe will make it easy to convey and/or request information – just to learn time and again, no one is reading your emails?
Okay, perhaps a bit of exaggeration that NO ONE is reading them, but sometimes it feels that way. At least I have had my moments wondering if I’m just spinning my wheels.
I like communicating via email. I have time to pull my thoughts together, eliminate unnecessary words and emotions. I can brainstorm with myself as I consider what I really want to share and what I need to find out. I don’t have to wait for someone to be in the office or track them down by phone. It helps me check things off my list, feel a sense of accomplishment that I’m moving things forward. So instead of getting frustrated, I decided to consider what else could I do to entice my reader? Thus, began a little research into why people don’t read emails.
I was initially excited as my Google search gave me many links to pursue, but I quickly learned these were more about marketing emails. Though several points were relevant in a general way, it wasn’t really getting to the crux of my problem.
Hey, there’s a thought! Maybe it isn’t my problem unless I make it so. I’ve learned quite a bit about focusing on changing only the things I can change; I don’t have control over everything (thank goodness for us all!). I can always choose my response to any person or situation. One of the many things Communico’s MAGIC program has taught me is that I can consistently choose the appropriate responses to people and situations so that they will choose to have another interaction with me (and read my emails, please?). It is in my personal and our business best interests that I do all I can to keep my relationships with internal and external clients healthy.
What’s your first reaction when someone asks for an email you have already sent three times? Or if you completed something that you already delivered? Depending on the kind of day I am having, I can either do a quick search and resend the information, or I can waste some time thinking, “what, again?”
Now, if I’m going to spend any additional time on this (beyond the search and resend), I may as well spend it on improving my outlook, don’t you think? According to a 2017 Study by the Radicati group, a staggering 269 billion emails are sent globally each day and there are currently just over 3.7 billion email users worldwide. And, an average office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends around 40 business emails daily. Is it any wonder that perhaps my emails are not rising to the top?
What to Do
There are a few things I can do to make this email experience more MAGICal for everyone.
Detach; don’t take it personally; assume the best motives.
People are not necessarily lazy or inconsiderate or engaging in a power play. In this crazy, fast-moving world with an increasing onslaught of communications and workloads, people are going to try the fastest, easiest way to get what they need. Someone’s motives may not be the best but give them the benefit of the doubt. It feels good to just roll with it; to not get worked up about it.
Dealing with truly disrespectful, inconsiderate people is a topic for another article. In most cases and for the purposes of this article, I believe people are just trying to do their job in the best way possible. Hey, it’s not all about me - except for the part where they have confidence in me, otherwise they wouldn’t ask. Now isn’t that nice?
Write/Rewrite searchable subject lines.
If your subject line has the information they may need later on, you have made it easier for them to find the email on their own. Spend some time considering what the key keeper is.
- If they responded to your email with a question totally unrelated to your original subject line, change it. New subject, new email.
Appraise your intro.
“As I told you before …” or “As you can see in my email of 7/14 …” How does that make you feel? Smart? Confident? Informed? Would your memory return to 7/14 and all you needed to know come miraculously flooding back? Do either of you benefit from such a “gotcha” intro?
- Instead, you can just resend the information; or if in a hurry yourself, forward your original email with a simple, “Here you go!”
Consider the simplicity of the content
Separate different pieces of information into different paragraphs using a blank line between them to make it easier to read.
Use proper grammar and punctuation, again for ease of reading.
Keep your sentences concise – get to the point, use bullets where possible. People will skim through your email, it’s inevitable, so make it easy for them to see what they or you need. (A 2015 study by Microsoft claimed we now generally lose concentration after eight seconds- eight seconds!)
Send more than one email if there is more than one subject and they are unrelated. Different subject, different email.
Know your audience – we sometimes assume people know what we are talking about. Consider what you need to share to make the email a standalone piece of useful information. In some cases, no background or explanation is necessary. Some audiences just want the facts as succinctly as possible.
Granted, being the one who is consistently asked for previously sent information may seem tedious at times, and frankly, it is a learned behavior (hmm, another article?). But on a positive note, you have the information, you are depended upon, you are valued. Now I find that incredibly gratifying!
Anne Koproski, sales & marketing associate for Communico Ltd., has more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of office management, administration, process development, operations and sales support.