7 Rules for Texting and Emailing Piano Parents – What you might not know can kill your message!

Texting and emailing piano parents is dangerous work! Though I’ve learned a lot about emailing piano parents from my husband whose job relies heavily on email, I’ve also learned a lot the hard way.

The danger of not knowing and using these 7 rules for texting and emailing piano parents is greater than it ever has been since social media is in our everyday lives. Some of these dangers include:

  • Parents and teachers becoming seriously offended
  • Your paying customers leaving you for another, seemingly kinder teacher
  • Parents becoming defensive when they don’t feel graciousness and kindness coming from you at all times.
  • Stress and anxiety for you when trying to make policy changes.
  • Parents becoming angry with you

But in addition to these dangers of emailing piano parents, we also sometimes experience some turmoil with other piano teachers on social media! We’ve all seen these things, right?

  • Fights breaking out on social media
  • A teacher innocently asking a question about teaching only to be torn apart by other teachers who misunderstand
  • Teachers leaving a piano teaching group because of difficult comments people write
  • Teachers completely misunderstanding our spirit in which we write or comment on a question.

It’s sad when these things happen, but the good news is that so many of these situations can be avoided when you know and practice these 7 secrets about texting and emailing piano parents (and piano teachers). These can do wonders for helping to ensure that what you are saying and how you are saying it is really understood.

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Here’s the first and most useful lesson that my husband taught me about emails and texts:

1. A flat texting and email tone is almost always read in a negative way.

Here’s an example from an email/text that I wrote to my mom a long time ago:

Hey mom! We’re going to go out to eat next Thursday night and we haven’t been out for a long time. We were wondering if you’d be willing to watch the kids?

Here’s the answer I received:

Yes

But what I heard in my mind was a flat, unenthusiastic, “if I really have to” tone of voice. I’m sure she didn’t mean it. I know she didn’t mean it that way. But that’s the way we tend to read texts and emails. A flat tone is a negative tone.  

What I really wanted to hear was this:

Absolutely! I’d love to watch the kids!

Do you hear the difference?

So here is an example from the piano teaching world. Let’s say your 4:00 Monday student’s mom texts you this:

Hi! Amanda just found out that her debate team has advanced to the district semi-finals, so she won’t be at lessons Monday. Do you have spots open later in the week where she could come to lessons?

Let’s say that you are at the grocery store and are in the checkout line and so you send her this quick response:

No

Texting and emailing piano parents. Pick up the phone! ComposeCreate.comThat’s a flat response, right? Seemingly there is no emotion associated with it. But if you were a piano mom, how would that make you feel? Bleh. Angry. It would at least make you furrow your brow and be a little cranky for a little while. It would make you feel like your teacher doesn’t really care about your child.

Listen to the difference in this response by reading it out loud (and yes, I mean listen, because we can hear with our eyes!):

Wow! Congratulations to Amanda and her team! What a great accomplishment! She’s been working so hard at that. I’m sure you are proud of her. I don’t really have any openings later this week, but if something comes up, I’ll be sure to let you know! Good luck at district!

Hear the difference? Do you see the difference? As this article says, “Email misinterpretation tends to come in two forms: neutral or negative.”

Yes, it will take longer to text or even voice text that response. But the extra 30 seconds is worth that relationship! It’s worth it because it helps you have a great relationship with your paying customers! If you don’t remember anything else about this article on texting and emailing piano parents, remember this:

A flat tone is almost always read as a negative tone.

2. Exclamations points are overused, but necessary.

For the first 10 years of my marriage, my husband told me I used too many exclamation points in my writing. I would get annoyed with this criticism, but after a while, I began to see that he was right. [For an example, my husband suggests that you count the number of exclamation points in this article thus far.]

However, now my younger sister (she’s a millennial) has taught me the exact opposite lesson. When it comes especially to texting and even to email, exclamation points are crucial to demonstrating enthusiasm!

Texting and emailing piano parents. Show some enthusiasm! ComposeCreate.comBoth my sister and my husband are right. My husband’s advice is good for articles, and more academic writing. But blog posts, emails, and certainly texts are usually very conversational these days. So it’s okay and many times even necessary to use exclamation points to show enthusiasm when texting and emailing piano parents.

For example, in an email to a parents about Suzie’s great practice week, this just doesn’t cut it:

Susie had a great week of practice. Whatever you are doing to help her is working.

While you might think that the next sentence uses too many exclamation points, consider the difference in excitement level that you hear in your mind when you read it:

Susie had a great week of practice! Whatever you are doing to help her is working. Thanks so much for letting me teach her!

Communicating positive emotion when emailing piano parents is crucial.

3. All caps means you are yelling. Stop yelling.

If you know this already, feel free to skip this section. But if you have ever typed an entire sentence in all caps, STOP! Yes, I purposely yelled right there. 🙂 If you send this to a parent (who is most likely a Millennial or a late Gen X’er), your ignorance of email etiquette will be the topic of their dinner conversation:

GROUP LESSONS ARE AT 4:00 TODAY. DON’T BE LATE!

Imagine someone calling you and yelling that at you on the phone. It’s a simple lesson, but one we all have to learn at some point: All caps is yelling. Please stop yelling when texting or emailing piano parents (or piano teachers)!

4. Look for and acknowledge emotions first when emailing piano parents

This next tip could be an entire blog post, but I’ll just say that it’s important to look for the emotion in any message and acknowledge how people feel before responding.

Look at the message I sent my mom about going out to eat:

Hey mom! We’re going to go out to eat next Thursday night and we haven’t been out for a long time. We were wondering if you’d be willing to watch the kids?

Can you hear the emotion? I was excited to go out to eat. I was desperate to spend some time with my husband. I was hopeful that my mom would be excited about watching the kids for me. I was three different emotions in less than 32 words! The emails you get from parents are the same way! Let me give you an example:

Dan is finally getting some time off work and we’re going to go out of town for the weekend. So, when can you give a makeup lesson for Jon since the competition is so close?

Now, it’s super easy to notice the brazen assumption from this mom that you will give a makeup lesson. And my gut instinct is to react to the email without first looking to find out what’s really going on. What are the emotions that this parent is probably experiencing in this email? Can you hear the strain that this mom has been experiencing? Can you hear the stress that they’ve been experiencing because the dad has been working so much? Perhaps a little bit of desperation from this mom who has been trying to make everything work for her family during this stressful time?

Of course, acknowledging emotions doesn’t mean that your answer to the question about make up lessons will change. Maybe you’ll give this student a make up lesson, maybe not. That’s not the point. The point is that it’s very important to identify and acknowledge what’s going on for parents before reacting to another part of the email.

For example, a response that acknowledges emotions first might be:

Oh, I’m so glad to hear that Dan gets some time off so that you can go out of town for the weekend! I know it’s been stressful lately with everyone working so hard! I don’t give makeup lessons, but I’m happy to let you know if someone else cancels next week and there is an opening. Otherwise, what you could do is have Jon video his piece and send it to me before you go out of town. Then, I can use his normal lesson time to watch it and send him back suggestions so he knows what to practice when he gets back.

I hope you get some needed and much deserved rest and relaxation this weekend!

5. Call them when the conversation is high-stakes or needs de-escalation.

Texting and emailing piano parents. Pick up the phone! ComposeCreate.comThis is the advice my husband gave me that I still hate. I feel like I’m very inarticulate in person. I’m not good “on the fly” and I know that I can communicate more clearly in an email. But, emails are notoriously bad about communicating the wrong spirit and the wrong emotion and so much grief could be avoided if you just call them. In addition, once you send a high-stakes email, you just wonder for hours and even days, “Did they get it?” “What are they thinking?” “Why haven’t they responded?”

It’s better to call someone when they are angry so that you can de-escalate the situation, acknowledge how they feel, and have a chance to get at the heart of what is really wrong. Email and texting usually only makes a highly charged situation worse. Talking in person would be even better when possible.

You might want to give the angry person time to cool down, so you don’t have to call them right away.

In addition, remember that it’s all too easy for a parent to forward your email to anyone. So if your email is negative, angry, or otherwise unbecoming, you can quickly ruin your own reputation by putting your frustration down in an email. Once it’s in an email or text, you can’t take it back!

My husband is right. Though it is hard, pick up the phone and call them.

As Professor Shirky says in this New York Times article, “Social software,” like email and texts, “is not better than face-to-face contact; it’s only better than nothing.”

6. Always sit on an email overnight when there are highly charged emotions.

I’ve learned that typing up a response to an email or text that has made me angry makes me feel better. But, I’ve also learned that sending it right away almost always make things worse.

It’s so easy to react and type a quick response to ridiculous requests, unfair accusations, or other negative correspondence. But there is no “unsend” so it never hurts to sit on your message for a while when texting and emailing piano parents.

I’ve found that it’s also helpful to read your email out loud to someone else that’s not a part of the situation, like a spouse or a friend. Watch their face as you read it. Ask them how they would feel if they got your email.

Get a second opinion when in doubt about texting or emailing piano parents. It’s always worth it!

7. Be proper with the English language.

Typing an all lower case email, an email without a greeting, or a text without any punctuation or capitalization conveys the idea that you don’t care enough about the recipient to put the effort into these things. It also conveys a lack of professionalism. The recipient can subtly think, “If they are too lazy to type a proper response, what are they doing or not doing in my kids’ music lesson?”

For example, perhaps they send you a text that says,

I’m not sure I want Angela to be in the competition this year. I’m really concerned about her emotional state right now. Can we talk about this for a few minutes today?

You respond with this:

yep

I love what Psychology Today says about what that kind of response communicates: “I’m really busy. I don’t have time for you, and by the way, you’re not worthy of a capital Y.”

8. Carbon copying a group is rarely appropriate. Use Bcc instead.

This is crucial and I forgot about it until Andrea Dow from Teach Piano Today mentioned in a comment on Facebook about this post. If you are sending a group email and cc’ing (carbon copying) the group, please stop. It is considered horrible email etiquette to cc a group instead of bcc’ing a group. This is for several reasons:

  • When you cc, you are sharing a private email address with people who do not have the person’s permission to see it.
  • You are allowing for mass “reply-all” conversations which are very, very annoying.

It’s basically a violation of trust to cc a group of people that have not given their permission to do this. Instead, put your own email address in the To field and the Bcc (blind carbon copy) everyone. That way, you are not sharing their email with people who shouldn’t see it.

Also, be careful about mass texts. Those are extremely annoying. Every year, I get a “Merry Christmas” text from one of my friends, but they send it to a group of people. What happens is, instead of a quiet Christmas day, I get a barrage of reply texts from strangers that say “Merry Christmas” back which does not make my day very merry.

It may take a little extra time, but if you have to text everyone about something, copy your message and send that message to each individual person. Your recipients may not thank you, but they could get really angry if you do it the other way.

To summarize…

Though it takes a tad bit extra time, we really have to “go over and above” to sound respectful, courteous, and positive when texting and emailing piano parents. Of course, most of the time I think we don’t intend any negative outcomes, but the danger of email and texting is that many times these misunderstandings do occur.

If you think this is helpful, please leave a comment below. Plus if you would like a printable download of this, you can download the printable version by clicking here.

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