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. icon
    Griff (profile), 9 Oct 2007 @ 3:17am

    10 Rules for better email

    A few simple rules to make email better

    1. Never use a subject that gives away what the msg is about.

    2. If forwarding an email, leave in all the irrelevant stuff and don't change the subject appropriately.

    3. Copy lots of people in and make no distinction between To:(you need to read this) and cc:(for info only, feel free to ignore). let them guess.

    4. If answering someone's questions, never quote the question to help them remember what they asked.

    5. If distributing a really big file to lots of people, attach it rather than just forwarding a link.

    6. Write whole sentences in capitals for emphasis. People love that.

    7. Only ever look at what appears in the preview window, and reply to emails based just in what you see in the first paragraph rather than reading to the end first.

    8. Reply to questions with other questions rather than trying to give comprehensive answers. This way you can have the maximum possible conversations ongoing at the same time.

    9. Never use unambiguous date formats (like "6 Sep 07") when dealing across the atlantic - it spoils the fun.

    10. Never take 10 seconds more to explain something more clearly to save the reader 10 minutes of research. Your time is the most valuable there is.

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