Do your emails express enough emotional intelligence?

17 Dec

Are your emails emotionally literate?

It’s a sign of the digital age when I discover there is an app for people with low emotional intelligence: computer software can now check your tone of voice before you send out an email.

ToneCheck works in a similar way to SpellCheck, except that it catches the colloquial, heated, or inappropriate phrases that could perhaps be interpreted negatively, given the directness, informality and immediacy of digital communications. Quoting research that says half of all emails are interpreted incorrectly, ToneCheck gives Outlook users the chance to correct any message that may be received in the wrong way. So, instead of saying you’re ‘angry’, ‘upset’ or ‘hacked off’, the program suggests instead that you may be ‘concerned’.

Its functionality may need some work, according to some commentators, as the process requires the writer to hold off firing out the email and edit out certain choice phrases that could be career limiting, shall we say.  I particularly like this review in Fast Company that suggests the ToneCheck is the superego to the id (in other words, the email equivalent of the social conscience that tempers a person’s unruly instincts).

I agree that email writing needs more careful attention. People fire off emails often without re-reading them, or checking the ‘send’ list. And I also agree that business writing could probably benefit from more emotional intelligence.

However, while this program may be a helpful tool for the emotionally illiterate, I find that the process of writing down exactly what I want to say in an email – expressing my frustration, disappointment or rage – is hugely cathartic. Bashing the keys of my laptop and ranting about how someone has been annoying, disappointing or plain incompetent makes me feel so much better.

The crucial part of this process, however, is to write the email without pressing send – at least, not until I have cooled down and reviewed and edited what I want to say into a format that is more palatable, polite and professional.

That way, no one gets hurt. Least of all my career.

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