In Part 1 of this series, I focused on the preparation needed to process your email. Then, in Part 2, I guided you through the steps of doing the processing. So, if you have not read those, yet, check them out, and then come back here. In this post, Part 3, we’ll tackle, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of emails. Writing those that need time, energy and thoughtfulness to craft.
For a few reasons, some of which I will describe below, writing emails can be quite a challenge for ADHD adults. Sure, when faced with writing emails, everyone deals with those that leave them in a quandary. But your ADHD symptoms might make these even more difficult to deal with.
And so, your email continues to pile up because you tell yourself, “I’ll have to get back to those when I figure out how to respond.” But all you really mean is not now. Because, for adults with ADHD, there is now and not now. So, I bet when you say this to yourself you don’t really know when you’ll figure it out.
It’s important to acknowledge what a slippery slope this thinking can be for you. And start to learn how to respond to difficult emails, rather than avoiding them and allowing your inbox to explode.
Ready to do that?
#1 – Decide Whether Email Is the Best Medium to Communicate
Sometimes you are having a difficult time crafting an email because it simply isn’t the best medium to use. As there are contexts where a conversation either in person or over the phone would be better. If you’re not sure whether an email is appropriate or not, here are a few guidelines:
- When you are emailing back and forth multiple times, and crafting lengthy responses, a phone conversation or meeting is probably best. And will likely save you time in the long run.
- Of course, if it is an urgent matter, always pick up the phone. As you can’t be sure when the recipient will see the email.
- A phone call or meeting is also always best when the subject is sensitive and easily misinterpreted.
Maybe even when you are clear a conversation or meeting would be more appropriate, you opt to hide behind email, because of your challenges with having crucial conversations. You can start to understand how your ADHD may be contributing to these challenges and begin enhancing your communication skills by checking out how ADHD adults keep conversations from going horribly wrong.
#2 – How to Write Emails When You’re Uncertain What to Write
Then there are times when an email is a perfectly acceptable medium for communication. But you’re just not sure how to craft it. And so, you put off writing it. Because you’re going to do it later when there’s a better time. Right. 😊
In some instances, if you put aside a bit of time to do some upfront thinking, you might find it is not that hard for you to write the email. But you might not realize this is all you need until you give yourself the time and space. So, you’ll need to experiment a bit to figure this out.
Check out tips # 8 and #9 in Part 2 – How to Process Your Email for strategies on how to do this.
#3 – What to Do When Writing an Email Makes You Anxious
But what if, not only are you uncertain about what to write, but the thought of crafting an email makes you really anxious?
Maybe you are putting it off because, well, you have put it off for so long. And now you’re too embarrassed to respond. The best course of action is an apology and a response. You know that. There’s no other way out of these. Unfortunately.
Alternatively, you might not be responding because you don’t have the answer at your fingertips. It’s still imperative to respond and not leave them hanging, though, right? In these instances, you could reply with something like:
- “I don’t know, but you might want to ask Kia or look at XYZ site or…”
- “I’m not sure, but I can find out and get back to you by Friday.” (Be sure you put this task in your task manager. So, you remember your commitment.)
- “I don’t know. I’m sorry I can’t help you. If I can help you with anything else, though, please let me know.”
Then again, maybe you don’t respond because you anticipate the correspondence will just lead to more work for you, eventually. It might. And, of course, the last thing you want is more work. I get it. The key to this conundrum is to be aware of this thinking. Acknowledge that not responding only delays the potential request(s). And, yes, figure out how to respond.
You’ll find, as you build your skills responding to emails, you will also build your confidence in your ability to answer those emails that currently make you anxious. Guarantee it.
#4 – But Don’t Respond Too Fast
Yes, of course, you want to respond in a timely way.
But you also don’t want to respond impulsively. I bet you know what can happen when you do. If you want to avoid shooting off an email you may later regret sending, it is important to be aware of both the cues in the contexts where you might be impulsive, such as:
- When thinking about an email you feel emotions welling up in your body. Even if you can’t identify what the emotions are.
- You are angry or sad when you see an email.
- You have some hard stuff going on unrelated to the email, which might mean you’re not clearheaded.
In any of the above instances, you might decide to at least sit responding for a bit — a few minutes, hours, a day or longer. But, if you feel you must respond right away, you could say something like,
“Thanks for the email. I need to give it some thought, and I’ll get back to you by…”
You definitely need to find that sweet spot between responding in a timely way and making sure you can respond the way you want. So, give yourself the time you need before shooting off an email.
#5 – Make Sure You Stay on Point When Writing Longer Emails
Do you sometimes overthink when writing emails?
And, does this overthinking at times mean you spend a lot of time and energy trying to craft the “perfect” email? So, maybe it ends up containing “everything and the kitchen sink.” Then when the recipient(s) eventually receives it, they can’t see the forest for the trees. That is if they even try to read it, which they may not.
Consequently, despite spending all that time and energy, you’re not communicating effectively.
I bet you won’t be surprised to know the above scenario is common for ADHD adults. If this is true for you, check out “Are These 5 Decision-Making Traps Keeping You Stuck?” for ways to avoid these potential outcomes of overthinking. And then look at the suggestions below, specifically for writing emails.
- Make sure you know your objective – what you want the reader to take away from your email.
- Only write as much as you need to make your point. The shorter the better. They can always ask questions if they need more information.
- Similarly, to make the email easy to read, make sure it is scannable (2 to 3 sentences per paragraph).
- Before responding to an email make sure you read the email you received carefully, and you understand it in its entirety. Then respond to what they wrote, not what you think they meant.
- Also, if you’re confused by any part of the email, ask for clarification. Rather than responding to what you think they intended to write. This will help avoid any misunderstandings.
And, again, always remember to consider whether a conversation might be better.
Questions for You
Is there an email in your inbox you are avoiding right now?
Which of the above suggestions will you try today or tomorrow so you can either write it or set up a meeting/pick up the phone to have a conversation?