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Do you practice email Aikido?

In Aikido, one of the first lessons a beginner learns is the etiquette of the dojo — things like:

· Bowing
· Thanking your partner before and after each technique
· Arriving on time and bowing into the dojo
· Bowing onto the mat early to meditate
· Bowing off the mat as you leave

Are you noticing a theme? Bowing = respect in the Aikido world. When you enact physical conflict on the mat — even though we’re only pretending — it’s important to be respectful.

In the business world, whether in face-to-face meetings, or relaying information from one person to another, we practice similar acts of respect.

· Shaking hands when meeting for the first time
· Using professional language
· Paying attention to other people’s time

But what about when it comes to email? Conflict and communication tools apply to email, too!

Respectful email etiquette has similar characteristics. For example, don’t do conflict by email.

If you have even the slightest sense that a conflict is brewing, go see the person face to face, if possible. If not, Skype or pick up the phone.

In general, hold off on pressing the SEND button. Recently, I waited on an email that I had misgivings about sending. I was glad the next morning that I gave myself time to think and read it again. Changing a few words made all the difference.

Don’t Assume

Before you make a judgment about that email you received (or expected to and didn’t), respect that the sender may have had a positive intention.

Don’t assume:

· …the writer is ignoring you when you don’t get a speedy reply. She may not have the answer to your question and is waiting to reply until she does. She may not want to clog up your inbox with unnecessary back-and-forth mail.
· …the sender is angry or disrespectful. Think about different ways the message you’re receiving may have been intended. When the writer uses few words, I tend to interpret it as aggressive. But that’s not always the case. He may be under time pressure or assuming you’re short on time and trying to be as brief as possible.
· …they know what you’re talking about. Give some background, especially if you haven’t connected for a few days.
· …they can read your emotions. Think about how many ways the message you’re sending might be received. Read it over to yourself in different voices — happy, angry, overly assertive, and see how the words hit you.

More Tips

A great post by on “10 Common Email Mistakes” came my way earlier this month with more tips and tools for using email effectively.

So whether on the mat or in the email, R E S P E C T is palpable. Practice email Aikido!

Judy Ringer is the author of Turn Enemies Into Allies: The Art of Peace in the Workplace and Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict.

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