Skip to content

Email Empathy: How to Write More Effective, Inclusive and Engaging Emails

5 minute read

By Kim Arnold, International Communication Expert and the founder of Email Engagement, the #1 email writing training course.

Have you measured your EEQ recently? That’s your Email Emotional Intelligence. It’s a barometer of how much understanding you show towards other people in your emails.



A few years ago, a client had an email exchange with a senior leader in her organisation. He sent her a report.


She replied, ‘Thank you.’

He sent back ‘No thank you.’

Alarmed, she called him straight away.

What’s wrong?  Did I do something to offend you?’

What? No. Why?’

‘Your email. It said, “No thank you.”’

‘Aah. I meant: “No, thank YOU.” I was being nice.


It’s so easy to jump to conclusions when we don’t have visual or verbal cues to work with.

Luckily, my client displayed a high EEQ in that moment – she decided to clarify the email with a phone call. But most of us don’t take stock before we fire out a tetchy response.

Speed is a huge contributor to miscommunication. My client in the financial services industry said recently she felt under pressure to reply to emails from senior leaders within 15 minutes. In our crazy-busy workplace, where we’re churning out hundreds of emails a day, it’s no wonder that miscommunication is rife. A recent survey by Grammarly showed 100% of knowledge workers and business leaders experienced miscommunication at least once a week.

So, it’s clear we need to boost our EEQ if we want to engage our employees and colleagues and reduce conflict. Here are 3 simple tips to help:



Email isn’t a sophisticated tool to capture nuance – it’s more of a blunt instrument. If you get a snarky email, chances are the sender didn’t mean it to come across like that. Perhaps they were in a hurry. Or they were just having a bad day. (Studies show we’re much worse at conveying our tone and meaning and deciphering other people’s intentions than we think.)

So, give people the benefit of the doubt and always ask clarifying questions.



Stuffy, formal phrases like, “This memorandum serves to outline our new benefits policy” create instant barriers between writer and reader. The writer sounds distant and unapproachable. And for internal communications, this is a stone-cold culture killer. Formal language creates a ‘them-and-us’ environment, with diktats coming down from the ivory tower, instead of a common vision and mission.

So, choose more conversational language if you want to engage people: “Here’s everything you need to know about our new benefits policy.”



We tend to assume our own communication style is best. The late comedian George Carlin illustrated this ego-centric attitude brilliantly when he joked:

“Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.”

It’s easy to say that people who communicate differently to us are ‘wrong’. And to pat ourselves on the back for being ‘right’. 

For example, we might say: “I hate fluffy intros on emails. I’m just a straight shooter – I tell it like it is.  It saves everyone time.

But for someone else, this directness might come across as rude. 

For them, a soft email intro like “How was your weekend?” makes them feel seen as a whole person, not as just a cog in the system.  

We need to flex our email style to suit our audience instead of doubling down out of misplaced pride. In increasingly complex workplaces - multicultural, multiracial, multigenerational and neurodiverse – this is even more important.

So, try these techniques to rev up your EEQ and become the best thing in people’s inboxes!

Kim yellow head shot

By Kim Arnold, International Communication Expert and the founder of Email Engagement

Keep up to date with the latest events, resources and articles.

Sign-up for the Engage Employee Newsletter