Email Communication Continues To Be Misunderstood

from the flame-this dept

As we have noted here before, emails are very easily misinterpreted, which explains why online flame wars are infamously common. With the emergence of social neuroscience new findings have been published to further explain why emails often result in misunderstandings. Email is at a distinct disadvantage since it lacks the sensory richness of a face-to-face conversation. In a face-to-face conversation, we can judge the tone of the conversation by body language, gestures and tone of voice. So, left with only the words in an email, we are left to interpret the tone of the emails in a vacuum. But, never fear, there are ways to improve email communication. Since studies have shown that misunderstandings occur less between people who are familiar with each other, Professor Clay Shirky recommends to start communication face-to-face and then move on to email. Even saying "Hi" every morning goes a long way to facilitating the social glue. Long touted as the true "killer app" of the Internet, email has definitely improved communications -- that said, it's critical to recognize the differences of this medium and be sensitive to the challenges that it brings.

Filed Under: communication, email

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  1. identicon
    m59, 9 Oct 2007 @ 7:18pm

    Email Is More Written than Spoken

    Email is no more than an excuse for the barely literate to hide their ineffability. The originator of misunderstood email bears a responsibility to communicate more effectively. Likewise, the receiver of email must make an effort to interpret and react upon that information. Everyone is involved in the process. Until telepathy comes along in a big way, we all need to realize that language is the best way to connect with other folks and get what we want out of life. For those who lack the necessary skills, shut off the TV, put away the DVD, take your hands off the joystick, and start reading and writing practice. People win and lose jobs and lovers and court cases by their words. (What's in YOUR vocabulary?) Fraust says we need to dumb down our communications to accomodate the lowest common denominator. Wrong! That's not a practical or strategic way to address the issue, but a short term solution that panders to the language-impaired and takes our inadequate educational system off the hook for its failure to ensure literacy. How else can we restore our esteemed literary heritage except by presenting our highest efforts and ideas through our words? Let each adapt their language skills in service to society rather than the other way around.

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