I was having a discussion with one of our customers back in January, and it eventually evolved into an “old guy” rant about phone calls versus emails. Contrary to the beliefs held by most Millennials, a phone call isn’t ancient technology, and an email isn’t a conversation. Obviously, both conversations (by phone or face-to-face) and emails have their place in the workplace. The gentleman that I was talking to said that he had implemented a “two email” limit at his organization. If an issue couldn’t be resolved within two emails, then it was time to pick up the phone. ComNet is no different than his company, and we have developed a tendency to over rely upon emails for communication.
The following are some general guidelines that should be applied.
- Never use email to give critical feedback, especially serious or nuanced feedback. It’s hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in an email. The biggest drawback and danger with email is that the tone and context are easy to misread. In a live conversation, how one says something is as important as what they are saying. With email, it’s hard to get the feelings behind the words.
- Email and text often promote reactive responses, as opposed to progress and action to move forward. The irony is that while email has the potential to be more thoughtful, it often promotes the opposite tendency to be immediately reactive. Why? Because the bark is almost always bigger than the bite behind remote digital shields.
- Email prolongs debate….my own personal pet peeve. Because of the two reasons above, too many debates continue well beyond the point of usefulness.
- New relationships require a greater reliance on phone conversations in order to develop a rapport.
- Never use email for anything that is likely to be heated or conflict-filled, or where there is a potential for misinterpretation.
- Conversations are critical when you’re involved in complex projects or tasks where you need to hash out what the outcome should look like.
To sum it all up: If you’re dreading the conversation or it feels uncomfortable to you, you shouldn’t be using email. That’s the sign of an issue that’s sufficiently delicate, emotionally charged, or ripe for misinterpretation that indicates you should be having a conversation.
Email is one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past two decades, and social communication platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have fundamentally changed and positively enriched the means and reach with which we are able to interact. In the business world, email is the primary method of documentation. While conversations may be the best way to address a complex issue, those conversations inherently rely on our collective memories, and remain subject to interpretation. Accordingly, it is absolutely essential that the results of a conversation be subsequently documented. This is where email creates its greatest benefit to business. It allows all the parties to a conversation to confirm that everyone heard what the other was saying, and avoids the risks associated with people talking past each other. Emails and conversations are complementary methods of communication, not replacements for each other. This leads me to the last rule in this area.
- As important as conversations are, if it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen.