Setting the tone

I write a lot of emails. I have this habit of just jumping in and getting right down to business. But before I hit send, I try to remember to go back and add something human at the beginning, to set the tone.

You see, email doesn’t give us the option to choose our tone of voice. We don’t get to make sure the emphasis is on the right words, or use a gentle tone when we want, or even put a smile in our tone. Sure, we can try things with fonts and italics and parenthesis and emojis…but it’s far from perfect.

I’ve learned over my many, many (many) years of email writing, that if you don’t sent the tone, people will read your email with whatever tone of voice is already in their head.

If they’re in a pissy mood, their going to read it with a snotty tone of voice – and no matter how benign your message is, it will be a whole lot easier to misinterpret!

If they’re in a defensive mood they are going to hear your message as something that they need to defend against.

It’s just human nature. It’s inevitable…unless we set the tone.

Setting the tone isn’t hard, we just have to remember to do it. A quick sentence or two at the beginning that shows that you’re a human talking to another human can do the trick. Set the tone the way you want the person to hear your message. Do you want to be friendly? Helpful? Warm? Supportive? Funny? Lotsa possibilities here.

Hint: if you’re at all concerned, read your email out loud a couple of times. Inject some tones that are NOT what you want, and see how easy it is to misinterpret. Fix it if it needs to be clearer. That’s quicker than repairing the damage!

Bonus hint: If you want to yell at someone over email, don’t. Oh, and never send something in writing that you don’t want to be forwarded!

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love and light,


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