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“In an effort to communicate my true feelings beyond words in an email…” are the words of Michael Thorpe, Principal at Milton High School in Santa Rosa County, Florida. Principal Thorpe knows that how one communicates with another says so much about one’s true interest in connecting with that person.

Yesterday’s Harvard Management Tip of the Day (here) challenges us to “strike the right tone in [our] writing” and reminds us that “getting tone right takes work – but it’s critical…” The Tip tells me that I can find the right tone by writing a message “as if [I was] speaking to the recipient in person.” Dr. Janet Pilcher, Senior Leader of Studer Education, shared the Tip with us (her colleagues) because she believes the Tip is “one of the most important in today’s work world” and relates it to connecting with others via email:

When I read emails, I can read messages that are written with positive language yet as the receiver I sense the person on the other side is corresponding without much thought to who I am or without having a true interest in connecting with me. 

Email correspondence is often a critical part and sometimes the only part of our communication with others. Studer Education colleagues responded in the following ways to the Tip and Janet’s initial reflection about it:

Let’s learn what not to do and continue to be good stewards to others as our primary mission. It is very difficult to do the work we do without having a true sense of care for our students and school district partners.

As a person that has to constantly reread emails for content and voice. It is very easy to send messages that are unintended especially when I respond quickly. This is something I teach but do not always follow. Immediate responses are usually not required. Stop. Think. Reread—then respond.

I also like to stop and take an extra minute or two to end my emails to students by adding a closing that is welcoming and heartwarming.  This is something I learned from Dr. Mary Rogers [UWF Professor Emeritus] who always had such wonderful closings that I would find myself looking there before ever reading her email.  I think this helps frame emails and makes the reader “feel the love.”

And [Mary’s] beginnings would say – “Warm Greetings, Janet.” …  I learned from her to address the person in a sincere way.

…Reading all these emails about setting the right tone has reminded me of the saying which we used to have posted in the Print Shop when I worked for the ECSD: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Don’t underestimate the difference we can make when we CHOOSE how engage with others.

All of these comments represent what it means to “communicate to connect” with others—that as a leader or teacher (or friend or spouse/partner) we choose rightly how to communicate our interest in others and in their work and our sincere commitment to them and to our work/partnership.

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Michael Thorpe has been the principal at Milton High School since 2007. Read about Principal Thorpe’s use of AudioMemos to connect with his colleagues in a previous blog here.

Harvard Business Review. (April 02, 2013). “Strike the Right tone in Your Writing,” The Management Tip retrieved 04.03.2013 online here and adapted from the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing.

The Studer Education quotes included in this blog are from Dr. Sarah Miller, Mr. Paul Brown, Dr. Janet Pilcher, and Dr. Robin Largue. Thank you for including me on correspondence even though you know the possibility that it may make “the blog.” These exchanges are meaningful to me and an excellent example of what we teach others.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the fifth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.