Writing Email as a Stoic

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Writing as a Stoic

Stoic Strategies for Crafting Business Communications with Clarity, Purpose, and Virtue

These quotes reflect the Stoic perspective on the value of writing as a means of self-expression, self-improvement, and the pursuit of wisdom. Quotes include ancient times and the modern Stoic tradition. These quotes hopefully inspire you to write with clarity, purpose, and humility.

Quotes on Writing from the Ancient Stoics

  • When you write or speak, you let your mind be heard. – Epictetus (c. 50 – 135 AD)
  • Write to yourself as you would to a friend. – Epictetus (c. 50 – 135 AD)
  • The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall. – Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 AD)
  • Write down your thoughts, but don’t be attached to them. – Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 AD)
  • Speech, the most excellent of things, and supreme end of supreme beings, the one thing of which we who have received the faculty of speech stand in need for the sake of expressing ourselves, is so great and of such a kind that to preserve its integrity is possible for no man, only for a god. – Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – 65 AD)
  • Beware the barrenness of a busy life. – Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – 65 AD)
  • The wise man writes to himself, not to the world. – Zeno of Citium

Quotes on Writing from the Modern Stoics

  • Writing is a form of philosophical self-discipline. It helps us clarify our thoughts, express our ideas, and ultimately, lead a more Stoic life. – Donald Robertson
  • The goal of Stoicism is to practice virtue and wisdom, and writing can be a powerful tool for self-examination, self-improvement, and the pursuit of wisdom. – Massimo Pigliucci
  • Write to learn, not to teach. – Massimo Pigliucci
  • Write to share your ideas, not to get attention. – Naval Ravikant
  • Writing can lead to wisdom, but it doesn’t. Writing can make you a better person, but it doesn’t. Writing can change the world, but it doesn’t. What it does is open doors. It’s up to you to walk through them. – Ryan Holiday
  • Write to clarify your thoughts, not to impress others. – Ryan Holiday
  • Your writing should be as clear and concise as possible. – Tim Ferriss

Quotes on Creating Business Communication from Famous Stoics

Here are 10 quotes from famous Stoics on the importance of creating business correspondence based on Stoic principles and concepts:

  • The wise man listens to meaning; the fool only gets the noise. – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. – Epictetus
  • Be silent for the most part, or, if you speak, say only what is necessary and in a few words. – Marcus Aurelius
  • If you wish to be a writer, write. – Epictetus
  • The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have. – Epictetus
  • We suffer more often in imagination than in reality. – Seneca
  • The best revenge is not to be like your enemy. – Marcus Aurelius
  • The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. – Epictetus
  • It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. – Seneca
  • Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one. – Marcus Aurelius

 

I hope you find these quotes useful and inspiring for your business communication.

Stoic emails, inspired by the wisdom of Roman Stoics like Seneca, are clear, concise, respectful, and professional. They can help you build stronger relationships with your colleagues and clients and perhaps get more done in the workplace with fewer frustrations.

Introduction to Stoic Email

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a novice in the corporate landscape, understanding the Stoic thought process can have a positive impact on your professional interactions, and everyday life.

Stoicism, a school of philosophy that has stood the test of time since the ancient world, emphasizes virtues like wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. These timeless principles can guide our communications, much like they guided Seneca in his letters.

While the Roman Stoics, including Seneca, were renowned for their wisdom in navigating life’s challenges, they also had much to offer when it came to correspondence. This blog post will explore how a Stoic, in the spirit of Seneca’s letters, would prepare and write a business email, with an emphasis on virtue, clarity, and effectiveness. Stoic emails are clear, concise, and to the point, echoing the brevity of Seneca’s letters. They are also respectful and professional.

In the dynamic world of business communication, the ability to draft effective and virtuous emails can help enable success and harmony. One way to live a more Stoic life at work is to write more Stoic emails, perhaps modeled after Seneca’s thoughtful and philosophical works.

Before writing a business email, one of the first things a Stoic would do is take some time to prepare, much like Seneca did when crafting his philosophical letters.

As a practitioner of Stoicism, approaching the task of writing an email involves applying Stoic principles, much like the philosophical positions espoused by Roman Stoics. These could include the following thought processes.

Stoic Virtues are the Foundation

The Stoic philosophy places virtue at its core. Seneca’s letters, filled with wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, serve as excellent examples.

Before your fingers touch the keyboard, it’s essential to cultivate Stoic virtues, echoing the moral teachings of Roman Stoics like Seneca, that will guide your email composition. Chief among these virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, much like what Seneca conveyed in his letters.

Wisdom enables your message to be well-founded and purposeful, just as Seneca’s letters were filled with profound insights. With wisdom, you can reflect on the purpose and content of your email.

Courage, as displayed in the philosophical works of Seneca, guides you to address challenging issues with integrity, never shying away from the truth.

Justice, a cornerstone of Stoicism, leads you to be fair and empathetic, even in difficult conversations, much like Seneca’s just and thoughtful letters.

Temperance, echoing the moderation and restraint found in Stoic texts, encourages you to use temperance in your communication, ensuring your message is neither excessive nor deficient.

Virtue is the only good

Create Virtue-Centered Communications

Write emails that are virtuous and consistent with Stoic values, much like the Stoics, including Seneca, who valued honesty and respect.

Avoid writing emails that are dishonest, disrespectful, or harmful to others, adhering to the Stoic principle that virtue is the only good. Instead, write emails that are truthful, respectful, and helpful to others, like Seneca’s letters that aimed to educate and guide.

Stoicism places virtue, like wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance, at its core. A Stoic would ensure that the email is aligned with these virtues. This means being honest, respectful, empathetic, and just in the content and tone of the email, mirroring Seneca’s commitment to virtue in his letters.

Begin with Clarity

This principle means that I should write emails that are easy to understand and follow, mirroring Seneca’s clear and straightforward writing style in his letters. By being clear and concise, I can write emails that are informative and efficient, just like Seneca’s short and impactful letters.

For example, use simple and direct language, avoiding using jargon or acronyms that your audience may not be familiar with, much like Seneca’s clear and unambiguous style in his letters. Use bullet points or headings to organize the key email concepts, following the logic and structure that Seneca applied in his philosophical works. Keep your email short and to the point, following Seneca’s example of short, yet profound, letters. Avoid unnecessary details or repetition, mirroring Seneca’s conciseness. Shorten sentence length for added clarity, similar to the concise style of Seneca’s letters. Use more common words to avoid confusing language, following the simplicity of Seneca’s writings.

Clarity in communication is non-negotiable, as Seneca demonstrated in his philosophical letters. Clarity is the cornerstone of effective communication, and Stoics understand this well, as exemplified by Seneca’s writings. Ensure the overall email is well-organized and easy to read and understand on first reading, echoing Seneca’s knack for presenting ideas clearly. Quickly get to your point, just as Seneca did in his letters. Avoid beating around the bush, mirroring the directness of Seneca’s letters. Review your words to make sure you are communicating the intended message accurately, just like Seneca’s meticulous approach. By being honest and direct, emails are more accurate and reliable, much like the reliability of Seneca’s philosophical letters.

Write emails that are truthful and straightforward, much like Seneca’s commitment to honesty in his letters. For example, avoid using euphemisms or vague language, such as “maybe,” “hopefully,” or “as soon as possible,” echoing Seneca’s preference for clear and straightforward language in his letters. Avoid making promises or commitments that you cannot keep, such as “I will get back to you by tomorrow” or “I will do my best,” mirroring Seneca’s approach of making realistic promises in his letters. Instead, use specific and realistic language, such as “I will reply by Friday” or “My goal is to complete the task by next week,” much like the realism found in Seneca’s letters.

Be Respectful and Professional

Write emails that are polite and courteous, mirroring Seneca’s respectful tone in his letters. Use proper salutations and closings, and address your audience by their name or relevant title, as Seneca addressed his recipients in his letters. Use please and thank you when appropriate, following Seneca’s courteous style in his letters. Avoid slang or informal language, such as emojis, abbreviations, or exclamation marks, much like the formality of Seneca’s letters. Avoid euphemisms, just as Seneca avoided vague language in his letters. Avoid unnecessary jargon, similar to Seneca’s clear and straightforward style. Use technical acronyms and jargon only if you are certain everyone in the audience will understand, echoing Seneca’s consideration for his readers. Otherwise, explain new or complex concepts clearly, mirroring Seneca’s practice of making complex ideas accessible in his letters.

Emotion Regulation

Be mindful of your emotions and your responses, echoing the Stoic emphasis on emotional resilience found in Seneca’s letters. Stoicism teaches emotional resilience and the importance of maintaining composure, much like the emotional composure Seneca exhibited in his letters. In email communication, a Stoic, much like Seneca, would approach emotionally charged topics with calm and rationality, avoiding using emotionally charged language or reacting impulsively to any negative responses.

Be as calm, focused, and rational as you can be before creating your correspondence, much like the emotional composure demonstrated by Seneca in his letters. Avoid writing emails when angry or upset, following Seneca’s advice to avoid hasty responses. Work to be calm, much like Seneca’s calm and reflective demeanor in his letters.

Writing emails when angry or upset may lead to harsh or impulsive words that I may regret later, echoing Seneca’s wisdom in avoiding emotional outbursts. Wait until you are in control of your emotions before building your email, much like Seneca’s recommendation to respond only when rational. Avoid emotional language, such as “I am furious” or “I am disappointed,” mirroring Seneca’s rational and factual approach in his letters. Instead, use factual language, such as “I am concerned about this specific behavior or situation” or “I am dissatisfied with…,” as seen in Seneca’s composed and reasoned letters.

By being mindful of your emotions, you can write emails that are composed, reasonable, and responsible, much like Seneca’s ability to maintain emotional control in his letters.

Self-Examination

Stoicism encourages self-examination. A Stoic would periodically review their communication habits and assess whether their emails align with Stoic principles, much like Seneca’s self-examination in his philosophical works. This reflective practice can lead to continuous improvement, much like Seneca’s continuous self-improvement.

Accept What Cannot Be Controlled

Remember you can create the email and follow all the Stoic principles and Seneca’s wisdom and still not be able to control how others respond to your email. Avoid writing emails that expect a certain response or outcome from the audience, as Stoicism teaches the importance of focusing on what’s within your control. Instead, write emails that express your thoughts and requests clearly and respectfully, not connecting your emotions to the response. By doing so, you can write emails that are detached and serene, much like Seneca’s detachment from external outcomes.

Accept that you may not always get the response that you expect or want, echoing the Stoic principle of accepting what cannot be controlled. You cannot control how others react to your emails, similar to the Stoic emphasis on controlling only your thoughts and actions, much like Seneca’s teachings.

We Can Only Control Our Own Thoughts and Actions

In the spirit of Roman Stoics, particularly Seneca, consider the timeless wisdom of focusing on what’s within your control. In the Stoic school of philosophy, complaining about external factors is discouraged. Instead, embrace the Stoic way of life by sending emails that proactively address problems or contribute to improvements. This approach aligns with philosophical works that underscore the importance of virtue, clarity, and effectiveness.

Craft Your Stoic Message

Stoicism, as seen in Seneca’s letters, encourages purposeful communication. Before diving into the body of your email, gather your thoughts in the present moment. This aligns with the Stoic emphasis on thoughtful expression, reflecting the way of life advocated by Roman Stoics.

Create purposeful communication by defining the specific purpose of your email and what you aim to achieve. In the daily stoic email tradition, every message should contribute to overarching goals, avoiding unnecessary or impulsive communication. This echoes Stoic principles of rationality and purposeful action.

Email Subject

In crafting your subject line, draw inspiration from the Stoic tradition. A specific, and short email subject line, akin to the first letter of Seneca, sets the tone for the entire email. This reflects the Stoic emphasis on clarity and straightforward communication.

Email Body

As you proceed to the body of your email, follow Stoic teachings on respect. Begin with a respectful salutation, mirroring the Stoic respect for others. In the Stoic school of philosophy, acknowledging the roles and contributions of your audience fosters a positive and dignified exchange.

Be Mindful of Your Email Audience

Tailoring your email to your audience aligns with Stoic values. Avoid language that might be interpreted as offensive or insensitive, reflecting the Stoic emphasis on empathy. Whether writing to a potential client or a colleague, adopting a mindful and respectful tone embodies Stoic principles in a modern context.

By adhering to these Stoic practices in your email communication, you contribute to a positive and virtuous professional environment, embodying the timeless art of turning trials in the modern world.

Write a Draft

In Seneca’s letters, the importance of direct and honest communication is evident. When crafting your email draft, focus on clarity and simplicity. As Roman Stoics emphasized brevity, avoid unnecessary details and jargon. The Stoic way of life encourages getting straight to the point and expressing ideas honestly.

Write with Clarity and Brevity

Inspired by the philosophical positions of Roman Stoics, particularly Seneca, prioritize brevity in your emails. Stoicism values clear and concise language, echoing the teachings of ancient philosophy. Keep your message straightforward, embodying the Stoic principles of honesty and clarity.

  1. Brevity: Channel Stoic simplicity; avoid lengthy emails and convey your message succinctly.
  2. Honesty: Uphold the Stoic virtue of honesty in your communication.
  3. Clarity: Embrace clarity, steering clear of complex language and jargon.
  4. Empathy: Express understanding, aligning with Stoic principles of kindness and respect.

 

Address Challenges Stoically

In the spirit of Seneca’s letters, which often addressed challenges, approach difficult subjects with a Stoic mindset. Maintain a professional tone, practicing emotional resilience inspired by Stoic virtues. The courage to address matters with integrity and justice aligns with Stoic philosophy. Use your email to resolve issues and encourage collaboration, fostering a dignified and respectful exchange.

Avoid Blame and Criticism

Stoicism discourages blame and criticism. Following this principle, focus on constructive and solution-oriented language in your emails. Rather than assigning blame, take a Stoic approach that maintains professionalism and promotes collaboration.

End with Gratitude and Forward Momentum

Reflecting the Stoic tradition, conclude your email with expressions of gratitude. Seneca’s letters often exhibited gratitude, and this practice helps build positive professional relationships. End on a positive note, expressing appreciation for the recipient’s time. Provide a clear call to action for forward momentum, aligning with Stoic principles of purposeful action.

Proofread – Revise and Edit

In the manner of Seneca’s meticulous crafting of philosophical works, take the time to revise and edit your email. Proofread with the precision of a Stoic, considering the following:

  • Take a Break: Pause before proofreading for a fresh perspective.
  • Use Tools: Leverage proofreading tools like Grammarly for grammar, spelling, and tone.
  • Check Details: Verify names, pronouns, subject lines, and links for accuracy.
  • Read Aloud: Ensure clarity by reading your email aloud or seeking a second opinion.
  • Fact-Check: Confirm the accuracy of facts and dates, avoiding misinformation.
  • Tone and Style: Maintain a professional and respectful tone, adhering to Stoic principles.
  • Simplify: Embrace Stoic brevity by removing unnecessary elements, ensuring a concise message.
  • Peer Review: Seek feedback from colleagues to enhance the quality of your email, mirroring the Stoic value of collaboration.

 

Reflect and Review What You Have Written

Before sending your email, engage in self-reflection inspired by Seneca’s letters and the principles of Roman Stoics. Ask whether your message aligns with Stoic virtues, clarity, and efficacy. Reflect on whether it resonates with values upheld by a Stoic sage.

Stoicism encourages pausing for self-reflection, ensuring that your email is just, fair, and virtuous in content. Take a moment to ponder whether your communication embodies these Stoic principles.

Avoid These Common Mistakes When Crafting Stoic Emails

Grammar and Spelling Errors

In the timeless art of turning trials into triumphs, don’t let grammar and spelling errors detract from your message. A Stoic would always proofread, considering tools like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to enhance clarity.

Spell the Recipient’s Names Correctly

Embrace Stoic virtues of attention to detail and respect. Double-check the recipient’s name, valuing accuracy and demonstrating respect for others.

Check the ‘To’ list of recipient(s) Before Pressing ‘Send’

Before making the stoic choice to press “send,” diligently check and recheck the recipient list. This prevents potential embarrassment or damage to your reputation, aligning with Stoic ideals of careful consideration.

Use ‘Reply All’ Sparingly and Correctly

In the vast realm of emails, exercise prudence with “reply all.” Stoics value mindful communication—reserve “reply all” for essential conversations to avoid unnecessary disruptions.

Create Clear Subject Lines

In the philosophical works of Stoics, clarity reigns supreme. Craft subject lines that embody this clarity, avoiding spammy or vague titles. Clearly state the purpose without resorting to urgency clichés.

Do Not Flag Every Email as ‘Urgent’

The Stoic approach discourages urgency without genuine cause. Avoid diluting the impact of your correspondence by reserving the “urgent” flag for situations truly demanding immediate attention.

Do Not Send Vague Requests

Stoic precision extends to your requests. Be specific, concise, and considerate of your recipient’s time. Provide ample details for a clear understanding and prompt action.

Summary of Things to Avoid

By sidestepping these pitfalls, your business emails can embody professionalism, effectiveness, and respect. Applying Stoic principles, enhance your email communication skills for a more virtuous professional presence.

How to Write a Stoic Business Email

In the Stoic tradition, crafting business emails involves specific considerations.

Summary Tips for Writing Stoic Business Emails

  • Use Simple Language: Echoing the clarity of Stoic texts, avoid complexity in sentences and jargon.
  • Be Specific: Embrace Stoic precision by avoiding vagueness and generalizations.
  • Be Positive: Focus on solutions, reflecting the Stoic emphasis on the good life.
  • Be Grateful: Conclude with gratitude, following the Stoic practice of expressing appreciation for your audience’s time and consideration.

 

Here is an example of a Stoic business email:

Subject: Request for a meeting to discuss the new projectDear [Name],

I am writing to request a meeting to discuss the new [project name] project. I am excited about the potential of this project and I believe that we can achieve great things together.

I am available for a meeting on [date] at [time] or [date] at [time]. Please let me know what works best for you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards, [Your name]

This email is clear, concise, and respectful. It states the purpose of the email in the subject line and gets to the point quickly in the body of the email. The email is also positive and grateful.

Here is an example of a business email that leverages Stoic principles with a list of the principles applied below the email.

Subject: Request for promotion considerationDear Boss,

I hope this email finds you well and that you are enjoying your day.

I am writing to express my interest in being considered for a promotion to the position of senior manager. I have been working as a manager for the past two years and I have consistently delivered high-quality results and exceeded the expectations of our clients and stakeholders.

In the past year, I have successfully completed several challenging projects, such as Project A, Project B, and Project C. I have also demonstrated strong leadership skills by mentoring new hires, resolving conflicts, and fostering a positive and collaborative work environment.

I believe that I have the skills, experience, and attitude to take on more responsibilities and contribute to the growth and success of our company. I am always eager to learn new things and improve myself. I am also open to feedback and constructive criticism.

I would appreciate it if you could review my performance and achievements and consider me for a promotion. I am confident that I can handle the senior manager role and bring more value to our team and organization.

Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Employee

Stoic Principles Applied to the Previous Email

Here are some explanations of how Stoic principles were applied in each paragraph of the email:

  • The first paragraph used a friendly and respectful tone to greet my boss and show gratitude for their well-being.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **kindness** and **appreciation** for others.
  • The second paragraph stated my purpose of writing clearly and concisely.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **clarity** and **honesty** in communication.
  • The third paragraph provided specific examples of my achievements and skills that demonstrate my value and competence.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **evidence** and **reality** over opinions and emotions.
  • The fourth paragraph expressed my interest in being promoted and explained why I think I deserve it.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **self-improvement** and **ambition** tempered by **humility** and **rationality**.
  • The fifth paragraph asked my boss to consider me for a promotion politely and respectfully.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **respect** and **dignity** for oneself and others.
  • The sixth paragraph thanked my boss for their time and attention and expressed my hope for a positive response.
    • This reflects the Stoic principle of **gratitude** and **optimism**.

 

I hope you find this email example Stoically helpful and informative.

Conclusion – Leveraging Stoic Wisdom in Modern Business Communication

In the realm of modern business communication, incorporating Stoic principles is akin to unlocking a timeless guide for ethical and effective discourse, adding value to your professional odyssey, and resonating with your audience.

Mastering the Stoic art of writing necessitates the cultivation of virtue, an unwavering commitment to clarity, and a relentless dedication to effective communication. This philosophical approach transcends temporal boundaries, offering enduring insights for the contemporary professional.

By embracing the Stoics’ perennial counsel, you can elevate your professional exchanges, nurture mutual understanding, and construct a reservoir of goodwill. In doing so, you embody the profound wisdom of ancient philosophy, a beacon of light in the swift currents of modern business.

This blog post aspires to be your guide in navigating the Stoic path of preparing and composing business emails. Following the insights shared herein empowers you to craft Stoic emails—communications that are not only clear, concise, and effective but also imbued with respect and professionalism. These Stoic emails are poised to yield positive outcomes, aligning your modern communication with the enduring principles of ancient wisdom.

Learn More about Crafting Email Based on Stoic Principles

 

Photo by Paul Pascale on Unsplash

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