I am surprised by the number of emails I get where a new contact i.e. a stranger is emailing me for the first time and they just send me a one-liner, with no polite introduction or sign-off. For example:
I need to improve my English – what should I do?
How can coaching help me? Please explain.
Now I can appreciate that, as the old idiom states, Time is Money. And I realize that in some busy offices or cultures there is little time for ‘fluff’ and people speak directly to each other. HOWEVER in international business communications, it is vital to learn how the other party expects to be communicated with and on what level of formality or politeness to use, especially for the first contact.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not angry or personally offended by these short emails. I can read between the lines and realize that these are people who genuinely are asking for my help, so that they can achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives. I appreciate that and am happy to respond. But my job is to teach communication skills, so today the message is this: Don’t forget the bread when making your sandwich!
When we eat a delicious sandwich we savour the meat or cheese or whatever garnishes are inside, but we need the bread to hold it together from top to bottom, right?
The same is true in polite, professional, positive communications, even emails.
The bread is the polite intro and ending. For example, let’s improve the above emails:
I am happy to receive your newsletters, and have learned some interesting communication tips from you. However as English is not my first language, I need to improve it. What should I do?
Any suggestions or resources would be appreciated.
I am intrigued by your website and broadcasts, and am interested to improve my personal communications, however I am not really sure how coaching can really help me personally. I wonder, could you explain the coaching process in a bit more detail to me, or send me a resource to read?
Thank you very much,
By using the sandwich analogy it serves as a quick reminder to be polite in the beginning and end of your communications, whether speaking or writing, especially when you are communicating with a new person. You want to set the right tone and make a winning first impression.
Thank you and have a good lunch!