The Power of One (Part Two)

1 July 2010

Word count: 400

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


 Image by Chee.Hong


Today is Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Establishment Day holiday – so this will be short.


I’d like to follow up on last week’s post about the Power of One with some lessons I’ve learned from readers’ responses (or non-responses) to email.


I recently read a line in How to Connect in Business (by Nicholas Boothman) that really got my attention.


‘The measure of effective communication lies in the response it gets.’


It reminded me of email responses I’ve received where it was obvious that the reader hadn’t read my entire email.



In my experience, if I write a very long (or even slightly long) email, invariably the reader responds with follow-up questions – that I have already written the answers to in the first email!!!


So I have to write back and answer their questions. Again.


And if I write someone an email and ask them to do two things, invariably they do only one.


So I have to write back and ask them to do the other thing. Again.


What a frustrating waste of time!


Obviously, responses like this show that my communication is not very effective.


Learn from my mistakes

So, after many years, I’ve finally learned to write short emails. This is because most readers only get through the first paragraph (or maybe the first two). After all, emails are supposed to be short, right?


And I’ve finally learned to ask the reader to do only one thing.


Cheater’s tip

The funny thing about writing short documents (emails or whatever) is that they’re actually harder to write well than long documents are.


So, I’ve got a ‘cheater’s tip’ for you that applies the ‘Power of One’ theory in another way.


Go ahead and draft a long email with several actions for the reader to take. Then break it up into small sections with only one main point and one action. Cut and paste each small section into a separate email. Then mail one at a time – maybe once an hour or once a day for several days running. (Obviously this won’t work in every situation, but it should work at least sometimes.)


Do you have tips to share?

I’m interested in hearing about how you get results from email. How have you succeeded? What have you learned from your mistakes? Please share your tips with us in the comments. Thanks!


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