The Conway Daily Sun
Nov. 6, 2013
Email saves us time and money, and costs us time and money. How do you know when to use it and when to pick up the phone instead? Last week, I sent an email to five people I know pretty well and speak with frequently. As usual, I reviewed the email carefully before hitting send. Convinced there was no way to confuse my point, I closed my eyes, said a little prayer and hit clicked send. You guessed it; every person misinterpreted my point. But wait, it gets better – when the first person hit “Reply to all” and gave their response, the rest of the group misinterpreted that person’s position as well. Does this sound familiar? How much fun is this?! It’s like doing “Who’s on first” via group email. We created the old fashioned he said/she said, but with a written record of it. What a total waste of time and energy.
Most people I work with think and function very differently than I do. These differences can create challenging relationships, but I find it refreshing, interesting and far more productive than working with people who think just like me. I never get much argument when I say that one of me is enough! My point is that we all have different communication styles and even when we are talking with someone who“gets” us, they still are not privy to what was going on in our head before we wrote the email. It is very easy to miscommunicate via email.
My favorite four tips about email.
1. When sharing facts and figures, copies of larger documents, reports, and short answers to simple
questions, use email.
2. Never, ever, not even once in a while, discuss emotional issues via email. Sorry kids, emoticons are
not legitimate expressions of emotions. Yes, a happy face is cute, (especially the one with the tongue sticking out), but not when used merely as a means of avoiding actual communication.
3. When attempting to negotiate, make a sale, discuss scheduling needs with staff, terms of payment
with a customer, etc., it is wise to understand the other person’s interests, not just their position on a given subject. You want to explore what they are trying to achieve, not just address the solution they are proposing. This
requires talking with them and asking deeper questions that invoke more understanding. Pick up the phone to double your chances of success, or discuss it in person to quadruple your chances of success.
4. Stop hitting “reply to all” as your default. When sending email to a group, you can put all their addresses in Bcc, which will help by keeping them from replying ot all, but as the recipient of a group emial, there may be a setting in your email that allows you to set this as a default – if so, change it. If you do it manually, think first. Is what you are saying necessary for everyone in the group to hear? There is no need to try to sound smart in front of the whole group, unless everyone really needs to know the information you are sharing. Don’t contribute to email fatigue. People have to read your response to discover if there is any information relevant to them. It’s bad enough we have to listen to every response when we are suffering
through meetings, don’t make us all suffer through it via email meetings. You don’t want to train people to not read your emails if you ever want them to pay attention to you when you need them to.
When discussing our likes and dislikes, body language and facial expressions represent 55% of our communication. The tone of our voice and inflection contribute 38% of the interpreted meaning and the actual words we use contribute only 7% of the meaning. These widely used statistics from Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA, are subject to debate as to their application in real life. The study applies to what elements of communication people trust when spoken words are incongruent with body language, tone, voice, etc.
People trust body language and facial expressions more than they believe your word choice. Can we apply this or more recent complex studies to email use? If you are a scientist, probably not. If like me, you are just trying to get through life more effectively with less stress, then yes, it applies. Read the following sentence aloud several time, each time, placing the emphasis on a different word. You will instantly see how the meaning of the sentence changes dramatically each time. “I did not say you have an attitude problem.” Do you trust the reader of your email to choose at random, where they place the emphasis?
Now that nearly everyone has a $200 phone in their pocket, we talk to each other less than ever. Improved understanding saves time and money with staff, improves customer service, makes more sales, negotiates better terms, builds higher trust, and saves untold amounts of grief and stress. Let’s start listening and speaking to each other, shall we?
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.