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
    My2cents, 13 Oct 2007 @ 10:45pm

    10 more email rules

    Griff must have learned his rules from the same boneheads I deal with. Here's some more great rules to be all that you can be:

    11. Stop cc'ing your backup on the most important projects two weeks before you go on vacation. They'll get a kick out of trying to figure out WTH is going on while you're hiking in New Zealand for the next month.

    12. Answer questions with irrelevant answers. For example, if the question is "Do your RHEL 5 installs kernel panic with the latest driver?", reply with "I'm having no problems with Win2K3". It's always good for a laugh.

    13. Don't include your phone number, just in case someone actually needs to speak with you.

    14. Save time by reading every 3rd or 4th word, then reply based on only what you read.

    15. Use lots of long run-on sentences, in one long paragragh, instead of using numbered lists or bullets.

    16. If an urgent message regarding a high-priority project hits your inbox at 09:00, don't reply until 18:30 just before you leave the office. No point in getting all involved in a crisis during your busy day.

    17. Take advantage of team meetings to send messages to your SO. But do it from your notebook not your iPhone, because that would just be too tacky.

    18. Use witty signatures in messages to your customers. Something like "You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them". Instills that "warm and fuzzy" feeling on the other end.

    19. Never reply with the "include original message" feature enabled. That would be TMI for anyone. Who needs a stinkin' thread to know what's going on?

    20. Heck, why even bother answering the original message when you can reply in a new one that doesn't include everyone that was on the original? Be sure to observe rule #1 when doing this.

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