Even when everything’s going well, work stress can often seep into office communications in negative ways. As more and more business is done remotely, it’s time to evaluate the gratitude level in your email habits.
If you’ve been feeling extra-stressed lately, you’re not alone. According to a 2022 poll by the American Psychological Association (APA), Americans are more stressed than ever before and are deeply unhappy with the state of the world.
The top stress inducers the poll cited were inflation (87%), supply chain problems (81%), global uncertainty (81%) and conflict in Ukraine (80%). While these stressors were on the minds of everyday Americans, for compliance professionals, they can be extra stressful, given the nature of our jobs and the fact that for many in the field, the risks those issues create are part of our daily reality at work.
Stress is a normal and not-completely-avoidable part of life. But when it moves from periodic to chronic, negative emotions and styles of communication often result. This could mean reacting to everyday workplace stressors angrily or being overly anxious about situations in the office.
And especially given the recent pandemic-era shift to remote work, we may see the effects of stress showing up in the most-used communication tool in the modern workplace: email. Not communicating face-to-face with people may make the temptation to be overly harsh simply too hard to resist for folks who are not handling stress well — and the ripple effects can be harmful.
Adding a few positive words and phrases to your work emails can help people (including the sender) feel good and prevent common problems. It only takes a few tweaks to an email to strike a positive tone.
In a profession where we often have to send difficult messages and where we run the risk of bias against the profession impacting perceptions, why not reward email recipients who took the time to read an email by making their day?
Here are a few ways that you can incorporate a little bit of hopefulness and gratitude into your communications so you don’t pass your own anxiety and stress to your clients and colleagues.
Two little words can sometimes be difficult to say when you don’t feel appreciated or particularly thankful. Gratitude makes a huge difference in the workplace and is one of the easiest ways to change the course of a relationship. Practicing gratitude has benefits to the person receiving thanks but even more so to the person offering it.
By authentically recognizing and articulating something worthy of praise and appreciation, you will tend to focus more often on the positives rather than potential complaints. Additionally, for the recipient, it is far more difficult to act in a challenging and confrontational manner to someone who has just taken the time to thank you.
There are many ways that you can thank people throughout the day:
- Thank you for setting up this meeting. It helped me to keep this issue top of mind.
- Thank you for sharing your feedback. (Even if the feedback isn’t what you wanted to hear, you should be able to learn from every piece of feedback to be better.)
- Thank you for making the time to connect with me.
- Thank you for completing your training on time.
- I really appreciate you volunteering as an ambassador.
You should be able to find something to give thanks for with every person you interact with. Also, many companies have ways to recognize within the workplace; use those channels to recognize people you work with. You can also consider a LinkedIn thank-you for anyone who has helped you along the way, whether it is through resume help or workplace support, etc.
Recognize positive attributes using descriptors
There are thousands of adjectives in the English language, which means you have a virtually limitless supply of words to sprinkle into statements of praise. Diligent. Thoughtful. Precise. Intelligent. Hilarious. Strategic.
Use the power of adjectives to tell your email recipient something wonderful about themselves. Let’s be honest, everyone loves a good compliment or acknowledgement that makes them feel seen and heard.
Examples can include:
- You are so diligent in completing the questionnaire before everyone else. You help to make my job easier.
- I really appreciate how deliberate you are when making decisions.
- You are easy to work with. It’s always satisfying when you are part of the team.
There is a song about accentuating the positive that you could sing along here, but in general, try to focus on what you can and will do rather than the things you can’t or won’t do. It helps to be able to say “yes, and here is when you can expect XYZ.” This sets expectations in a positive way rather than focusing on disappointments (like you having competing obligations, boundaries, etc.)
This subtle difference in communication looks like this:
“I’m happy you reached out, I can get back to you on Thursday afternoon.”
That’s a much more positive way to communicate than something like this:
“I can’t help you until late Thursday.”
Be helpful when you can
Whenever it’s possible, try to be helpful. Everyone needs assistance and just the offer of being willing to help goes a long way in de-stressing a situation — even if it turns out that your set of skills isn’t needed.
Offer support through email, by simply asking how you can help or offering to take on some of the load. You can help bring solutions to the table such as offering to review a draft or arrange a meeting or prepare an agenda.
Yes, and …
One of the wonderful ways that you can show appreciation and validation is to acknowledge positions or statements already made and add in a little bit of your perspective. Identifying and acknowledging what someone has contributed already makes people feel seen and included in solutions. Find ways to say “Yes, and” when you can.
There you go — five ways to bring a little sunshine into your writing that will help you connect and be welcomed to the table. Thank you for taking the time to read this article.