E-Mail Tone Can Improve Medical Practice Communication


Do all of your employees understand what professional e-mail communication is? If not, it's best to get that clear, ASAP.

It happens every day in all industries. An e-mail is sent out and is either misinterpreted, or is written in such a nonprofessional manner that its context is completely ignored, and respect for the sender drops ten points.

Oftentimes, multiple individuals are included on the e-mail, and when responding quickly to such e-mails the individual hits "reply all." This only exacerbates the problem with e-mails flying around your Intranet, leaving everyone frustrated and angry.

Having communication issues at your practice? Having a conflict with a patient or staff Visit the “Courtesy Clinic” for a diagnosis from Sue Jacques, The Civility CEO®. Send your anonymous issue to courtesyclinic@physicianspractice.com and Sue will provide you advice and guidance in an upcoming issue of our print journal and online.

There is a remedy to this type of scenario, and it's called "e-mail tone awareness."

If you have not explained the basic etiquette and rules of e-mail to your staff, today is the day.

E-mail tone is often lacking when we "cut to the chase, get to the point, or send a quick note," through an e-mail. These short messages are felt to be advantageous to business communication. However, when we loose track of our "e-mail tone," we are assuming the recipient of our e-mail understands the real intent of the message.

Often this is not the case! Those who do not know us well are forced to make assumptions about our "intent," and may send back an e-mail lacking the appropriate "e-mail tone" as well.

I find it easier to pick up the phone and talk directly to a person to gain clarity on an issue, especially if my intent might be misunderstood in an e-mail.

In a recent article by Inc. Magazine titled "Watch Your E-mail Tone," I found the following relevant to this discussion:

"When you don't speak to someone face-to-face, you don't have the benefit of seeing the body language that happens during the conversation. Body language is a huge part of communication: Up to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal. That's a lot of communication to be missing when we're not face-to-face. With the telephone, we can at least hear the pitches and inflections a person uses while speaking. When voice is taken away, words become tone deaf."

So what can you do to remedy this problem?

Ask your staff to take the time to consider how their professional communication, including e-mail, is received by staff and colleagues.

If your staff find themselves frustrated, especially when composing professional communication, tell them to take a second look at their message, and even postpone the answer until they can be assured the "tone" is business appropriate. I would suggest picking up the phone and speaking directly to the person in question.

The best business advice I received was, "When solving a problem, if you need time to find the best response or action, take the time you need. Very few issues are life or death, so take your time and solve it correctly."

In order for your practice to succeed, it means everyone should work together to build a solid team. Any action, message, content, or communication that does not help the team to become a stronger, more cohesive unit should be avoided.

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