Email is a monster

Stop in, you could win.

Tomorrow, August 11, 2010 I’m reviewing the book “Awesomely Simple.” In addition, the author John Spence is giving away three signed copies.

I recently sent an email to the leaders on my team that I shouldn’t have sent. The message was necessary but the channel (email) was inappropriate.

Do you use email for all your communication? I do but shouldn’t. Most know the severe limitations of email as a communication channel. However, because we constantly use it, it’s easy to slip into using it for everything.

The reason email isn’t for everything

Research indicating that 93% of communication is nonverbal (tone, facial expressions, gestures, etc) and only 7% the actual words is contested. Regardless of the exact percentages, it’s obvious that communication is much more than words. For example, location is a factor. Is the communication in my office or yours? Are you behind the desk or are we sitting together at a table?  Are we chatting over lunch?

Email shouldn’t be used for messages that potentially ignite strong emotions. Not long ago I received an email filled with wrong assumptions asking accusative questions. Thankfully, this time, I responded dispassionately and saved everyone the long damage control process.

Additionally, email shouldn’t be used when emotion is important to the message. You may have a strong message to give but you want to give it with compassion. Or, you may have a strong message to deliver and you want to put the fear of God in someone. In either case, make it face-to-face.

Email’s disconnect

Email recipients impose their context on your email. You may send a strong message with compassion but they may read a strong message with the fear of God. When that happens, let the damage control begin.

I know better than send an email that requires emotional context for accurate communication. But autopilot won the day.


What guidelines do you use for email vs. face-to-face communication?

Care to share an email story where the message was lost in damage control?