How many hours of your day do you spend reading and writing emails?
Too many, if you ask me.
Email has become THE communication tool of this generation (though rapidly being superseded by the text message). While it has advantages, it also provides plenty of pitfalls.
The most obvious one—remember, we’re talking about nonverbal communication here—is a lack of nonverbal cues. No voice pattern, no voice speed, no voice volume (um, no VOICE!), no body language, no breathing patterns, no gestures, no facial expressions (unless you employ emoticons!). You’ve got word choice and punctuation (exclamation points!!!!!)… and that’s about it. The chance for miscommunication skyrockets when you have to rely solely on words to get your message across.
Ask yourself these two questions before sending an important email:
1) Is email the right way to communicate with this person? Sometimes, the answer is yes. Visually-oriented people prefer written communication. Those who are more auditory or kinesthetic, however, need face-to-face interaction.
For example, my husband was having increasing difficulty with a coworker. Almost every communication between them resulted in a misunderstanding and tension steadily mounted. Finally, in the middle of an IM chat with the coworker, my husband got up and walked to her desk. Within a half hour they came to an agreement on something they had been discussing for weeks AND they had a chance to air out their relationship.
There are some people in your life (you know who they are!) who will always read an email the “wrong” way, yet are fine when you’re talking to them in person or on the phone. So, um, TALK to them already!
2) Is email the right way to communicate this message? If what you have to say is sensitive or emotionally charged, the answer is NO. I know, I know. I get it. It’s way easier to send an email than meet someone face-to-face when what you have to say is going to be difficult to hear. But it’s more important than ever to have the benefit of your terrific (because you’ve been working with us) nonverbal skills in those difficult moments than at any other time. You will reduce the chance of miscommunication and increase receptivity if you deliver those difficult messages in person with excellent nonverbal skills.
Do yourself a favor. Save time. Save hassle. Save face.
Skip the email to get your message across.