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Published on February 13th, 2013 | by Hot Quad


How to Email in Roller Derby

We’ve all seen the roller derby documentaries that include exciting footage of contentious group discussions and league meetings but If your league is anything like mine then 90% of your operating decisions are made remotely via email. Add that to the fact that most leagues don’t pick up new skaters based on their ability to communicate in writing and you have a recipe for difficulty. If you don’t use a lot of email in your professional life (and even if you do) you’ll rapidly discover just how hard it is to write what you mean without danger of misinterpretation or a variety of other pitfalls. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Stick to the facts. If you’re not sure how to broach a difficult subject then start with things that you know. Miscommunication is often founded in underlying assumptions that are incorrect so you might as well make sure you have your story straight. For example: “Our insurance contract is dated for January of 2012. It lasts one year. I think we need a new insurance contract.” This is neutral and better then, “why don’t we have a new insurance contract yet?” which is more accusatory and likely to raise a few hackles.

Say goodbye to privacy. All things sent in email can be forwarded whether by accident or otherwise and nine times out of ten the culprit will be your own haste. Try not to write it down if you’re not comfortable standing behind it in front of your entire league. That may seem harsh, but a little paranoia now can save you a lot of backpedaling later.

Ask, don’t demand. Unless you happen to play for a league that can afford to pay its staff then we’re all volunteers taking time out of our day, professional lives and skate schedule to keep our business up and running. A little courtesy goes a long way and ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are every bit as effective as your mother led you to believe all those years ago. Use them often.

Be modest. If you’re one of the people in your league who goes above and beyond the call of duty to keep the lights on and the wheels rolling then that’s great. You deserve a trophy. However, constantly reminding folks of your countless hours of work will completely undo any appreciation they might otherwise have had for your efforts. They can see that you’re emailing at 3am. They know that you’ve agonized over the details. Rather than harping on your own efforts, be the leader that you are and take the time to thank those who have been helping you. That thanks will always comes full circle in the end.

“Reply All” are perhaps the two most dangerous words in all of modern language. Treat them with the appropriate reverence. When you’re emailing a lot of people do your best to keep it brief, clear and unemotional. That said, long emails are sometimes unavoidable. Put your most important information first and format it in a way that makes key information easy to pick out when skimming. Be prepared to answer questions.

The following have no place in business email: Sarcasm. CAPS LOCK. Counting on others to recognize your tone of voice or sense of humor. Excessive bolding. Please accept that you are not the exception to these rules and err on the side of behaving like a professional. These women may be your friends but they are also your co-workers in the business of roller derby.

Of equal importance is knowing when not to email.

Sometimes the best response is no response. If someone mentions an idea to the group that you think is horrible then it’s OK to say nothing and let it die a slow natural death. Bad ideas are not wounded gazelles that need to immediately be put out of their misery. Also, you might find that your initial reaction was off and that further discussion of the concept by others brings about some positive action. Let it go. See what happens. You are not the captain of all that is good and right in the world.

Beware of self-righteous indignation. If ever you find yourself up late on Friday night typing a manifesto that perfectly reveals the brilliance of your newest proposition then do yourself a favor and hit ‘save’ not ‘send.’ You don’t need an email. You need a meeting, a sounding board and a long term strategy.

Repetition: If you’ve said it twice and the recipient of your message still doesn’t understand what you mean or disagrees with what you’re saying with no productive negotiation, then email is not the solution you’re looking for. Find a time to call or discuss the problem in person. Five minutes on the phone has the potential to help you sidestep 20 messages and a lot of bad feelings.

If you are a frequent emailer it’s likely that you already know which of your leaguemates don’t communicate well in writing. Save yourself and them a lot of frustration and ask how best to proceed. You may be surprised by how easy they are to work with when you’re communicating in their medium.

Even with all of the above don’t expect that you’ll get it right all the time. Everyone loses their patience now and then and even the best communicators are occasionally unclear. If you establish a good track record of doing your best you can expect that others will give you the benefit of the doubt. Be sure that you return the courtesy. Happy emailing!

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