Most of us are so bombarded with email that we spend as little time as possible determining whether a message is worth a thorough read. Some people opt to ignore and delete incoming messages altogether, which can be disastrous for a sender with important information to share.
How do you cut through the email clutter and capture your reader’s attention? Tailor each message to the intended reader’s core behavioral style: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance.
- Fast-paced, task-focused.
- Scans written materials looking for highlights or action steps.
- Replies in short sentences or a few words. May not respond at all; they assume readers know replies are unnecessary unless they have something new to add.
- Fast-paced, people-focused.
- Sometimes reads messages; other times scans for engaging/exciting information.
- Responds in “stream of consciousness” style, using exclamation marks, emojis, or shorthand.
- Slower-paced, people-focused.
- Reads email carefully with attention to detail.
- Responds in longer, detailed messages with a polite, cordial tone.
- Slower-paced, task-focused.
- Reads/scans for key points. Uses a critical lens to look for inaccuracies or inconsistencies. Expects attachments or detailed messages.
- Responds in detail, often with additional information the sender may have omitted. Uses a factual, accurate tone.
If you’re unsure of the recipient’s behavioral style, or if you are writing to a general audience, apply these tips to create an effective, stylish message:
Always use a call to action or include relevant details, such as deadlines. This works especially well with Dominant readers who scan first to determine if an email is worth reading.
“Front-load” the message (putting the most important information—the primary message– right up front in the first three lines) to capture readers’ attention. If you hold your primary message until the end, Dominant and Influence readers are sure to lose interest, thanks to their fast-paced nature and limited attention span.
In the body of the message, give Steadiness and Compliant readers what they most want–details. Use bullets, bold type, italics, and highlights to keep Dominant and Influence readers interested. To share deadlines or calls to action with specific individuals in a multi-recipient message, use different type colors for each person. If additional details are attached, reference that in the body. Apply these strategies to help ensure the four behavioral styles easily identify key messages and respond appropriately.
Wrap up email on a positive note (this is especially important to Influence readers). Repeat any calls to action.
- Audit an email from a peer/client/prospect. Attempt to identify their core behavioral style. Look for clues. If the message is long and detailed, it reflects Steadiness/Compliance. If it is short and to-the-point, you’re seeing Dominance. Does the writer focus more on tasks (Dominance/Compliance) or people (Influence/Steadiness)? Is the message well organized (Steadiness/Compliance) or more conversational/inspirational (Influence)? Once you’ve identified behavioral style, adapt your email writing to best suit your readers’ needs.
- Use the strategies above to write a message to a general audience composed of all four behavioral styles. Notice how you are adjusting your content to reflect your readers’ needs. Record any positive feedback and keep practicing.