Communicate Effectively with Email to Get the Results You Want


This is not my friend J! But it IS how she felt.

I was talking with my friend J. recently and she was super discouraged.

Three of the people she had been trying to connect with for her organization  —  people she had been in close contact with  —  had not responded to several of her emails. She was getting ready to ask them for gifts and they were disappearing!

“Is it me?” she moaned. “Did I do something wrong? Have they all decided that they don’t want to help me with this project?”

“I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster and it feels lousy. I can’t help but take this as personal rejection.”

Wow! Poor J.

It Isn’t You — It’s Your Email

Lizard BrainJ.’s Lizard Brain — that part of her brain that registers fear and rejection — was thinking the worst.

For a few moments, I wondered if she was right. I could understand if one person hadn’t responded.

But all three of them?

What was going on?

I started asking simple, practical questions to find the answer. And lo and behold, it wasn’t J. at all.

It was the way she was constructing her emails.

The Power of a Good Subject Line

J. had been communicating with all three people by email.

For the subject line of each email she used this:

Subject: WRA Update

Then in the body of the email, she wrote her personal notes asking to schedule appointments.

What was really happening?

Her emails were being shunted into an “I’ll look at it later” stack and then disappeared somewhere way down in the list.

That probably happens to you too. Emails you don’t respond to when they come in get buried in the stack. And then it’s easy to forget to respond.

So J. tried a new approach.

Sometimes it Takes a Personal Touch

J. was particularly concerned about one of the women she was trying to contact. So instead of using a nondescript subject line, she sent her an email with a more personal subject line:

Subject: I’m worried about you

Pronto, she got a response that very day. And she scheduled a lunch date that very week.

But Sometimes Email is Not the Best Way to Communicate

To the businessman who J. told me texted during meetings, she ditched the email approach and simply texted him a short message:

“Hey…coming to your office on Friday. Can I stop by?”

Again, pronto, immediate response: “Sure, happy to see you.”

And Sometimes It Just Takes Time

What happened with the third person?

Before J. had a chance to try a different response, he actually dug down in his email stack and got back to her.

No, the lack of response wasn’t about J. No one had written her off. She had just fallen prey to the challenges of modern-day communication.

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Experiment With Your Email Subject Lines

When you send emails today, stop and think for a minute about the subject line. Is it personal? Will it get the reader’s attention? Does it say something specific about the subject of the email?

Your subject line is at least as important as what you say in the message. It may make all the difference between whether your email gets read or whether it gets lost in the inbox.

What subject lines have caught your attention? Share outstanding ones with us in the comments below.