E-mail is a great, even essential, way to attract customers and communicate with employees, vendors and partners. But as I said in yesterday’s post e-mail can be dangerous when you’re angry, upset or even just trying to be funny. Why? E-mail is simply not very good at conveying the emotions behind your message — so it can be easily misunderstood.
A study detailed in the Christian Science Monitor found three major problems with e-mail as a communications medium:
- It lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning.
- Because it’s virtually instantaneous, it can create an urgency that pressures you to respond quickly, even before you think things through. That can lead to carelessness and conflict.
- Relationships developed via e-mail are more fragile than face-to-face relationships, especially when conflict arises.
The study found that not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate their feelings accurately, recipients often overestimate their ability to correctly decode your feelings and meaning. A classic failure to communicate.
Bottom line: Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone or drop in.
What’s your take? When is e-mail inappropriate? Have you ever had a relationship (business or personal) blow up because of a misunderstood e-mail? Ever been involved in flame wars? Answer in the comments.
Or just… uh… e-mail them to me.