E-mail is an everyday yet powerful form of communication that influences the way we interact in business and in our personal lives. Some people labor intensely over crafting the perfect message, while others prefer to dash off their thoughts almost as quickly as they conceive them. And once the Send button has been irreversibly hit, some of us go back and linger over the words we’ve submitted to our superiors, colleagues, friends, and loved ones.
How common is this habit of reviewing messages that have already been sent, and to what extent is it influenced by personality type? To find out, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You always reread your e-mail after sending it.”
Interestingly, a strong majority agreed overall (73%), so if you thought you might be too compulsive about rereading e-mails, you’re not alone! And although there were notable differences between nearly every personality-trait pairing, the most significant gap by far was between Turbulent and Assertive personality types (79% vs. 66% agreeing, respectively).
Which personality types are most likely to reread e-mails after sending them? Let’s find out.
Diplomats (78% agreeing)
Of the four Roles, Diplomat personality types were the most likely to agree that they give sent e-mails a second glance. As a Role that is deeply attuned to the power of language to influence the emotions of others, Diplomats may choose their words carefully to avoid misinterpretation and unintended offense. We can attribute this sensitivity to their Intuitive trait – which was a key influencer in our readers’ likelihood to agree with the statement – as well as to their Feeling trait. Even after sending an e-mail, a Diplomat personality may take the time to go back over what was said, in case any corrections or retractions are in order.
Analysts and Sentinels (74% and 73%)
Analysts and Sentinels were closely matched in their agreement with the statement, “You always reread your e-mail after sending it.” The concern that Diplomats may have about the effectiveness of their e-mails appears to be shared by Analysts and Sentinels alike, albeit for different reasons. Whereas Diplomats may worry about subtle shades of meaning and the recipient’s feelings in even the most innocuous messages, Analysts and Sentinels look at e-mails in a more pragmatic way, regarding them as missives instrumental to accomplishing goals. For Analyst personality types, this is likely the result of their core combination of Intuitive and Thinking traits, which makes them more concerned with making sure that plans are executed according to their visions than with pleasing people. By rereading e-mails, they can check that no necessary information was left out.
Sentinel personalities are likely interested in making sure that they’ve expressed themselves as clearly and accurately as possible. All Sentinels share the Judging trait, which was another key factor in our readers’ likelihood to agree that they always reread their e-mails. Placing great weight on established procedures, organization, and clarity, Sentinels may believe that well-crafted e-mails help everyone work together and cooperate more effectively.
Explorers were the least likely Role to review their e-mails after sending them. Their Observant and Prospecting personality traits make them practical but also flexible. A Role that tends to think and act quickly, Explorers prefer to move on to something else after finishing an e-mail, rather than lingering over its contents. Assuming that any missing information can be provided later, when it’s needed, or that unintended misunderstandings can easily be resolved with a quick follow-up note, or perhaps a phone call or in-person chat, Explorer personality types are not likely to spend too much time composing or rereading their e-mails.
Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (81% and 77% agreeing)
As mentioned earlier, personality types with the Turbulent Identity were the most likely to agree that they always reread e-mails after sending them. The intense self-criticism that characterizes the Constant Improvement and Social Engagement Strategies can cause a great deal of anxiety when communicating with others, leading many Constant Improvers and Social Engagers to scour their messages not only for embarrassing typos and grammatical mistakes, but also for any statements that could have unwanted effects on their recipients and, in turn, on themselves. Introverted personalities were also notably more likely to agree that they reread e-mails than Extraverts, which accounts for the higher agreement of Constant Improvers.
Turbulent Advocates (INFJ-T) agreed with our research statement more than any other personality type (89%). Advocates are more concerned than other types with the image they present of themselves in all areas of their lives, including their e-mails. This isn’t because they are vain or superficial; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Altruistic types who are always working toward a cause, Advocates often use an inspiring writing style that motivates others to action. They may believe that how they express themselves in e-mail affects not just their personal image, but also the success of their cause. As Constant Improvers, they’ll always be assessing what they could write differently next time to be even more effective.
Confident Individualism and People Mastery (69% and 64%)
The Assertive members of the Confident Individualism and People Mastery Strategies, in contrast, were less likely to reread e-mails after sending them. Their Assertive Identities make them more self-confident than Turbulent personality types and generally less concerned about the potentially negative consequences that could come of their words or actions, so it may be rare that they give a second thought to their e-mails.
Of all the personality types, Assertive Entrepreneurs (ESTP-A) were the least likely to agree that they always reread their e-mails after sending them (57%). Entrepreneurs are action-oriented types who would much rather get out and live life than sit behind a computer screen fussing over the wording of their e-mails. This is not to say that they are poor communicators. In fact, as Extraverted People Masters who thrive socially, Entrepreneurs are quite perceptive types with a knack for clear, up-front communication. These personalities may simply feel that they don’t need to reread their e-mails because they always express themselves in a direct manner, as they intended.
Though our survey indicated that most of us do spend time rereading e-mails after we’ve sent them, it’s interesting to consider how our different personality traits give us very different motivations for doing so, from consideration for others’ feelings to ensuring factual accuracy to maintaining our own self-image.
While there may be some practical reasons for rereading e-mails, the major split between Turbulent and Assertive types seems to indicate that worry is the key factor. Much of the time, rereading e-mails is an impulse, similar to the ones that makes us return home to double check that the stove is off or the front door is locked. It’s difficult to know where the line between due diligence and overconcern falls. But we must keep in mind that, even when we send follow-up e-mails to correct typos or clarify perceived ambiguities, there is a limit to how much we can amend after the fact. Once sent, an e-mail cannot truly be recalled.
Do you reread your e-mails after hitting Send? How do you think your personality type influences this habit? Let us know in the comments below!