Emotionally Intelligent Email

Emotionally Intelligent EmailI've quoted it before, and I'll quote it again, but are you aware that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is more critical to your professional audit success than the intellectual variety? The EI story goes all the way back to the 1990s with the publication of Goleman's inaugural book, 'Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ' and the TIME magazine cover that roared, 'IQ gets you hired, but Emotional Intelligence (EQ) gets you promoted'.  And time and time again, (excuse the pun!) studies have confirmed the hypothesis that IQ takes you only so far, it's EQ that really makes the difference at work, and in life.


But what happens to our EQ when we email?  Have you noticed just how easy it is, to take, and give, offence, by electronic messaging in any one of its many forms?


Some of us remember the olden days, when formal communications were made in letters, sent out by post, signed by hand on business-headed paper, checked (often by a secretary) for spelling, grammar, punctuation and overall common sense.  In those days, we used emails only for informal contact and, as such, devised 'text-speak' abbreviation, acknowledging electronic as a more casual, relaxed and chatty mode of communication.

So, a salutary reminder of the bygone world of at least a decade ago, today all types of communication, legal, formal, professional, personal and social are by email.  An old fashioned letter sent by snail mail is a rarity; how many have you received this month?  But compared to the art of the handwritten or hard copy missive, electronic messaging is a fledgling skill.  And, as we discussed in Tech'iquette, while, without a doubt, the virtual world is a truly wonderful creation, as mere mortals what we haven't yet managed to do is catch up with a sensible set of protocols, cultural norms or modus operandi.


And that's where emotional intelligence comes in.  Let's recall the basics:


EI or EQ is the ability to recognize emotions (your own and other's) and to use them appropriately to guide behaviour. The EI model spans four quadrants: self awareness (knowing how your behaviour impacts others); self management (self control and adaptability); social awareness (empathy and understanding the environment); and relationship management (influence, conflict management and collaboration).


How much EI do we use in our electronic communication in our audit jobs, I wonder? Emails are, by their very nature, instant, in many ways more akin to a verbal conversation that a written missive.  We read them, write them and send them at speed; grammar and punctuation are forgiven, spelling forgotten and text-talk, de rigour. Do we set out our emails in paragraphs for ease of comprehension? Not always.  Do we take time to read through the body to check for tone and meaning? Rarely.  How often do we double-take and consider if email is actually the best medium for the interaction before we hit the send button? 


Email, it feels, is overwhelmingly about quantity; how many we still have in our inbox, how quickly we can clear them, with the perilous over-ride that done is better than perfect. They certainly have their place in the fast-paced, rapid-response, twenty first century VUCA workplace.  But let's not forget the qualitative aspect of email, the impact conveyed, the response elicited and the longer term repercussions.  Now is the time to get smart and to employ the tools of Emotional intelligence: building rapport, taking time to reflect, investing patience, for a better strategic outcome.  We have to accept working a little harder on our emails and acknowledge that the very best electronic communication is still to come...


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