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给老板写邮件的七大必杀技

• Herman Vantrappen 2014年11月19日

战略咨询公司Akordeon的总经理赫尔曼•万特拉彭认为,在写电子邮件的时候,要把自己想象成设计师,去体察读者的需要,揣测他们的想法。

    如果你希望电子邮件能有效地传递信息,那么就一定要去揣摩读者的心态。

    亚马逊(Amazon)上关于“商务写作”方面的书将近有6,000种,再让你读这方面的相关内容,你或许会觉得难以理解。不过,一旦你把从书中学到的付诸实际,你就会发现你的邮件仍然无法实现那个最终的目标——让读者作出你想要的回应。一封出色的电子邮件能够说服读者采取特定的行动,比如:批准一份投资方案、提供信息、同意提供一份证明或者接受邀请等。因此,如果你的邮件无法让读者按照你的希望采取行动,你就浪费了别人和自己的时间。

    以下是能帮你写好邮件的七个建议,这些都是从我担任战略顾问的25年经验中总结而来。这七大诀窍有一个共同点,那就是都非常注重揣摩阅读者的心理。为什么这一点非常重要?在对方收到你发出的邮件后,他就会马上在心里将你的邮件进行分拣归类,很有可能就归入了那些糟糕的类目下,比如:“忽略并归类为垃圾邮件”、“以后再读”、“现在读,但不采取行动”等等。而显然,你所期望的是对方将你的邮件归类为“现在看并马上采取行动”。

    如果想要你的阅读者做出积极的回应,懂一点社会心理学和行为经济学会对你有所帮助。具体来说,关于这两个领域的一些基础知识,有两本书非常值得一读。第一本是罗伯特•希尔蒂尼(Robert Cialdini)的《影响力:说服的心理学》(Influence:The Psychology of Persuasion),这本书对顺从行为进行了心理学分析,即什么因素能让一个人答应他人的要求;另外一本是由理查德•塞勒(Richard Thaler)和卡斯•孙斯坦因(Cass Sunstein)合著的《推动力》(Nudge),这本书对各种系统进行了分析,帮助人们提高作出对自身更为有利选择的能力。虽然这两本书本身不涉及商务写作,但是包含了一些非常实用的相关理论。在这些理论的基础上,我总结出了以下的建议,它们与你在别的地方学到的那些常见的商务写作技巧,比如“避免使用被动语态”、“避免使用行业术语和缩略语”、“变换语句的长度和结构”等,将互为补充。

    下面就说说这七个建议。

    技巧1:要考虑到你的上司会在何时何地阅读你的邮件。在当今这个快节奏的时代,以字节信息为载体的高速通讯可以随时随地实现。因此,写完了一封电子邮件之后,你也许会忍不住马上发给对方,而这也很容易实现。但是,请考虑一下对方会在何时何地收到你的邮件。举个例子,如果你想要给老板发封邮件,申请请两个月的假,那么周五晚上就不会是一个很好的时间点。这个时候,你的上司正被困在拥挤的机场,等着晚点的飞机带他回家;在此之前,他刚刚与工会代表进行了长达三天的紧张谈判,结果不欢而散。你的请假申请也许理由万般充分,措辞流畅有力,但是你不妨多等一会,让你的电子邮件在一个更好的时间和地点进入上司的收件箱。

    技巧2:利用主题线索让邮件在收件箱中更为显眼。商务人士都非常忙,因此他们无法为作出一项决定花费太多时间。所以,他们往往是根据过去的经验,或者仅仅根据呈现给他们的一条书面线索就下意识地作出决定。首先是给电子邮件拟定标题,这不难做到。标题要让阅读邮件的人感到这是机会,并且会有好处,而不是要他们费力做什么事情,或者谋求他们给予恩惠。例如,你要写一封邀请别人参加基准管理培训的电子邮件,如果标题含有类似“学习”这样的字眼,就会让人产生“如何提高绩效”之类让人不安的联想。更高深的技巧是,要拉近邮件阅读者和你的心理距离,例如,提及共同利益或夸赞对方。当然,这种做法稍不留神就会走偏:你不想去误导、欺骗或操纵读者;只是想劝导、说服、促使他们作出决定。

    If you really want to get your message across, make sure you understand the mindset of the person you’re emailing.

    Amazon AMZN 1.60% lists close to 6,000 book titles on “business writing.” You might wonder why you need to read anything else on the subject. Well, once you start practicing what you’ve learnt from many of these books, you might find that an email of yours still fails to achieve its ultimate purpose: to evoke the response you want. A good email persuades its reader to take a specific action, such as: approve an investment proposal, provide information, agree to provide a testimonial, or accept an invitation. So, if your text doesn’t get your reader to act as you intended, you have wasted both your and her time.

    Below you’ll find seven tips to help you be a better email writer, which I have drawn from my 25 years’ experience as a strategy consultant. What these seven tips have in common is that they focus on the psychology of the reader. Why is that important? As soon as a reader receives a text, he mentally pigeonholes it into one of several, possibly damning categories: “ignore and ditch,” “read later,” “read now, but no action.” Obviously you want your reader to pigeonhole your text in the “read and act now” slot.

    To get your reader to respond positively, it helps to understand a little about social psychology and behavioral economics. Specifically, two great books serve as a good intellectual foundation to these fields. The first is Robert Cialdini’sInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which addresses the psychology of compliance, i.e. the factors that cause one person to say yes to another person. The second is Richard Thaler’s and Cass Sunstein’sNudge, which examines systems that help people improve their ability to select options that will make them better off. While these books don’t deal with business writing per se, they contain relevant and applicable insights. They lead to tips that you will find complementary to the often technical tips about business writing that you find elsewhere, such as “avoid the passive voice,” “avoid jargon and acronyms,” and “vary the length and structure of your sentences.”

    Let’s move on to the tips.

    Tip 1. Take into account where and when your boss reads your text.In today’s fast-paced world of instant, omnipresent and byte-size hypercommunication, it is easy and tempting to fire off a text to your targeted reader as soon as you have finished writing it. But think about when and where he will receive your text. For example, it may not be a great idea to mail a request for a two-months leave of absence to your boss on a Friday evening when he is waiting at an overcrowded airport for a delayed return flight home after three days of intense and unsuccessful negotiations with union delegates. Your request may be perfectly reasonable and eloquently worked out, but you’d better wait for a more auspicious time and place for it to land in your boss’s inbox.

    Tip 2. Stand out in a crowded inbox by using clues.Busy as businesspeople are, they cannot afford to think too long about every decision they have to make. They often make fairly automatic decisions based on past experience or just one written clue that is presented to them. It starts with simple things like the subject header of your mail: it should convey opportunity and benefit to the reader rather than effort and goodwill from him. For example, when you write an email to solicit participation in a benchmarking exercise, the heading “Study” may evoke more dreadful associations than “How to improve performance.” More profoundly, make yourself likeable to your reader, for example, by referring to shared interests or flattering him. Of course you’re walking a fine line: you don’t want to mislead, deceive or manipulate your readers; you simply want to convince, persuade and facilitate.

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