“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling
by my dear friend Debra Benton
It’s not unusual to get 20 or 200 emails a day. I know someone who gets 2000! If you look at the ones you’ve received (and include snail-mail letters too), you will see that the majority start with “I.”
You typically see, “I’ve attached . . . I hear . . . I wanted to thank you . . . I’m cc’ing . . . I reviewed . . .”
Let me suggest that instead of starting with “I,” start your written communications with “You.” For example:
“You’re getting a copy of . . .
“You probably know that I’ve heard . . .”
“You deserve thanks for . . .”
“You and Barry are being cc’d on this . . .”
“Your material was carefully reviewed . . .”
The simple effort of starting the first paragraph with “you” personalizes the missive to the intended receiver, reinforces who’s most important to them (themselves!), appears other-oriented (not self-oriented), and makes your communication stand out from the rest subtly, but positively.
Regarding structure, try this simple formula:
First paragraph – “Them” focused, meaning that it addresses their interests, needs and concerns.
Second paragraph – “Me” focused, meaning that it addresses you and what you want.
Third (and final) paragraph – “Action,” meaning that it conveys the action that you will take next.
This sequence helps you stick to the point and be brief. Incidentally, it also works particularly well in a cover letter to accompany your resume when you are job hunting. In that application, the structure might play out this way:
First paragraph – “Your organization is known for high integrity . . .”
Second paragraph – “I want to be a part of your team . . .”
Third paragraph – “Let’s try to talk in person this month, I’ll follow-up next week with your assistant . . . ”
See how much better that reads if you were the recipient than, “I’m writing to you because you are a high integrity team and I want to be a part of it and I’ll phone you next week.” Their likely response to this second approach? “I don’t want you to!”
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