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#mailfail-9: Whose Perspective is it? - Signing off

Why do emails fail? What could be the reasons? Are they the consequence of a lack of technical knowledge, such as bloopers made by autocorrect, or a failure to comprehend how to use particular settings, such as out of the office or Reply all?

This series has so far offered a lot of these justifications. One perspective hasn't been considered, though. Is solely the aforementioned to blame for the lack of communication? What else might the cause be?

Effective communication is not merely transactional; it involves interacting with others (one or many), which may have an impact on the receiver's emotions.

When you read an email, how do you feel? Does this have an impact on your understanding of the message?

Here, I would like to highlight the importance of the reader’s perspective, which often plays an important part in communicating effectively.

Consider the following email:

Hi Lalitha, Hope you’re doing great. Can we connect at 5 PM for a quick 15 mins test run? Please find the bridge details below:

Click here to join the meeting

Sandra (Lead, Talent Development)

Company logo

It appears to be correct and complete. But it left me fuming. Why was that?


I was negotiating with the HR head of a company, and we decided to conduct a course of 10 hours. I wanted a tech check as the course was online. I had spoken to the head and he assured me that someone would get in touch with me. There was no contact and so I called the HR head again and we went through a quick check.

However, on the day of training, half an hour before the training was to start, I get the message above. My first reaction was, “Who is Sandra?”. I would expect someone writing a first message to introduce themselves!

On reflection, I realise that this reaction was my perspective.

Perspective- see it from the point of view of the receiver of the message

Another example

You are a project manager. Your project is threatening to be late due to a lack of resources. You need three more people in order to stay on time. You send an email to your account Head…

You write:

It’s not my fault that the project is late, as you already know.

To keep on time, we need three moretrained people to support our core team. Each new head will decrease the delay.

A better way would be:

We have a problem with project XYZ. If we are not in time the customer gets nervous. We require three additional members for the project.

It would be a great value for the company if we can finish the project in time and the customer is satisfied.

Here you have worded the message keeping in mind the perspective of the Account Head.

When I met with clients as well as managers, very often I hear comments about not being polite. A simple word like ‘kindly’ can also be considered rude. Once, I was told that the word ‘kindly’ is used only in public notices; ‘kindly keep off the grass’ and ‘kindly keep your pets on leash’ are some examples. Also, to close an email trail, we often use ‘ok’. Would it be better if we said, ‘ok; thanks?

In an earlier post, Sujata highlighted how messages become brief once we develop trust. In the same vein, brevity is not recommended in a first email message to anyone. In such cases, it is better to err on the side of caution.

To conclude, audience perspective is an important aspect of email writing and is likely to be different when

· the reader is from another culture

· you know the person well

· levels are different (the manager versus a team member)

· goals are different

-- Lalitha Murthy

Dear Beloved Readers,

We are signing off on the #mailfail series. I am sure we can’t help but think back to the important lessons we have picked up during this series. It has been eye-opening, a time to introspect and even funny to investigate the slipups and misunderstandings in the world of email communication. Beyond the comedy of errors, these examples have a significant lesson for us to learn.

Emails the workhorse of our life is a powerful tool to connect, collaborate and a swift mode of sharing information instantly. However, it comes with a fair share of challenges that our bloggers have projected explicitly.

This #mailfail series focuses on the challenges and blunders in email communication. It highlights the importance of understanding the 7C's, the mother tongue's influence on emails, autocorrect tricks, and the importance of personalization in emails.

To reduce email blunders, consider thoughtfulness, clarity, brevity, proofreading, appropriate medium, reader’s perspective and writer’s intention. A well-thought-out message can significantly improve communication.

BCFAI appreciates your support in improving communication and wishes you all an effective communication journey.

-- Jayasree Menon
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