Email is an extremely popular form of communication in both the business and personal communication landscapes, but it can often lead to major problems if the underlying tone of the email message is misinterpreted at one end. If the parties involved are in different emotional states of mind, the slightest disagreement via email can quickly spiral out of control leading to a full blown argument. The email communication breakdown occurs because… let’s face it, we all aren’t poets. Seasoned poets can clearly exhibit brilliant emotion in their writing, but the average email communicator’s intended written emotion gets lost in translation.
As soon as email writers start using text phrases to characterize emotion that would normally be delivered via physical body language, the intended message could be misunderstood by the reader due to a complete misinterpretation of the writer’s emotional tone. It’s also important to note that intentional sarcasm in an email message only makes matters worst. The source of the problem with email communication deals directly with emotion. Emotion portrayed in a text based email can be interpreted differently when being read by different people, in much of the same way that a well written poem or set of song lyrics can receive various interpretations by various people.
How can we solve the email communication problem? There isn’t a single correct answer, but here are 4 bullet points to help you out:
- Be clear. Be brief. – Write short email messages with a crystal clear point. Do not write long winded confusing paragraphs that leave room for misinterpretation.
- Proofread. – Proofread your message multiple times. If the email deals with touchy subject matter, have a third-party read it over as well. This can give you added perspective on how well it will be received by the intended recipient.
- Wait. – Write the email, proofread it, and then sit on it for a little while. Knock off a couple other tasks before you have second look at it. If your emotions were flaring when you wrote the email, a little time can allow these emotions to settle, allowing you to evaluate the message in a different light.
- Pick up the phone! – While email can be a convenient communication channel, certain discussions need to be handled over the phone, or if possible, in person. If you notice that the situation is starting to deteriorate, don’t send another email, it’s time to pick up the phone or arrange a face to face meeting.