The Cowardice of Email

1131122825This week’s Struming on email comes on the heels of last week’s, Think Deeply Before You Send. I strongly believe that one should never argue via email or worse, send an email with an angry tone. It’s foolish, often harmful and, in some cases, career harming.

In fact any tone at all rarely works in email. Humor is misunderstood. Language is misinterpreted. Basic stuff like “See you at noon” or “attached is” works just fine. Words like “I feel” don’t work at all. If you have a point of view I would use language like “we recommend…”. And obviously calling another person a jerk in an email has the same impact as arguing politics on Facebook. There’s no winner.

But there’s a deeper problem with email—the assumption that the reader has received and digested your content. Not always so. Remember we each have a daily tsunami of emails in our in-boxes, sometimes hundreds of emails in the last few hours. It is easy not to see an individual email, but in any event, I find it weak that the sender believes they have successfully “passed the ball” by pressing send, and then feeling it is our of their hands while claiming indignantly to the recipient, “Didn’t You See My Email”?

This is the part when I sound old fashioned (which I am not—OK, maybe a little) but I see in business where people avoid conversation, avoid meeting and hide behind email. You Coward! Many would rather send an email than talk. Some are plain scared to talk and would rather send an email when a conversation or, heaven forbid, a meeting would be far better solving an issue.

Even in interoffice communication, I see people emailing someone down the hall rather than talking/resolving issues, large or small. It’s a poor business trait and alas is all too common in today’s world. That’s a shame and reflects badly on the individual. But worse yet, it’s inefficient to problem solving.

As I’ve said often, when you meet someone face-to-face, you can see their sincerity and body language (and they can see yours). You will understand their thinking at a deeper level, and vice versa. You can use the magic words, “I need your help” when your ask is sincere and not over the top. Most people will respond to a sincere ask, but not an assumptive email.

So please, when you have an issue to solve, your first reaction should be to call or meet, don’t email. Betcha you will be FAR more successful in achieving a successful outcome and build some stronger relationships on the way.

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