Coming Out on Top in Email Chain Battles

September 11, 2013

…………….Have you ever been involved in an email discussion at work that seems like more of a divorce dispute than a business conversation? Sides are taken, tempers flare and colleagues appear as adversaries. In these situations, you have to stop and take stock of what you and everyone else are trying to accomplish. The original intent of the discussion often seems like a thing of the past. Here are some tips on getting the group back on point and shifting the sentiment toward your point of view.

Reduce the Drama 
After about the fourth impassioned email exchange on a topic I start skimming the content, trying to miss all the unnecessary histrionics. So when a writer offers just the facts, as if she’s trying to be impartial, I tend to pay more attention. In most of these situations, though, that unemotional email often sways the reader because the writer can clearly choose which facts to present. Without all the white noise surrounding most of the other communications on the issue, the reader will tend to focus on those facts. So choose your words wisely. Sometimes the most impassioned Oscar-like speech will drive your potential proponents away when a short dispassionate display of the facts will win them over.

Be Careful What You Wish For
I was in an email exchange recently where a writer with an opposing viewpoint from mine felt like she wasn’t making enough headway. She added five people to the email chain and reiterated her thoughts. Unfortunately for her, one of the newcomers immediately uncovered holes in her argument and politely disagreed with her over the chain. Just as savvy Directors do before each Board meeting; make sure you know where everyone stands on your issue before you ask their opinion publicly.

Be the Hero
Realize that when you are getting tired of the endless loop of email hysteria, others are too. When someone suggests that a smaller group continue the thread so everyone’s inbox isn’t blown-up, I feel like jumping through the screen and giving that guy a hug. Yes, we have other important things to do! So when it’s appropriate, feel free to play the hero and be that guy- the one that frees up everyone else’s time.