Email is not communication.
Instead, it is rapidly facilitating the erosion and breakdown of effective communication. Especially within larger companies.
The technology is seductive. Because it is so easy to use and so immediate, it has seduced us into thinking that when we email someone, we’re actually communicating with them. Which is not true.
Instead, we are simply sharing information, in a one-dimensional way.
This means that only a small and fractured part of the message is sent and only a small and fractured part is received.
The most damaging result is usually the misinterpretation of intent which is why so many emails are misinterpreted when first received, resulting in a flurry of additional emails which try to clarify the intent of the original email.
Often, this creates even more confusion and misunderstanding which results in even more miscommunication. At this point, communication has fundamentally broken down, often resulting in bad feelings and lost productivity.
To avoid this, it is essential to understand and use the elements of effective communication.
The most effective form of communication is always face-to-face where both parties can use the elements of words, tone, and body language to convey whatever they want to share.
That’s because all 3 three elements support each other in conveying the person’s intended message.
Here’s how this works.
The Tone supports the Words and the Body Language supports both tone and words.
Working in unison, they increase the probability that both the intent of the message and the message itself are delivered and received as intended.
Research has shown that the most important part of face-to-face communication is body language which accounts for 55% of the message.
Tone accounts for 38% and words for only 7% of the message.
This means that with email only 7% of the message is getting delivered.
Here’s an example of how this works.
You watch a couple who are arguing and one of them shouts at the other, “I’m not angry.” Yet, his face is contorted in anger, his fists are clenched and the pitch of his voice is up.
Do you believe the person isn’t angry just because their words say so? Or, are you more influenced by the body language and tone which says just the opposite?
Now, think about this scenario in email where the only thing you have is words.
The words “I’m not angry” by themselves would fail miserably to convey what the angry person was actually trying to convey. Even worse, they would convey the opposite.
This isn’t to say that email is all bad.
Even though email is a poor tool for effective communication, it is an excellent tool for sharing information.
Here are some examples where email (and even texting) works well.. “What time will we meet client and where”, “Are we still on for lunch”, “Here’s an agenda item for our next meeting”, “Please ensure that Suzanne and Deepak attend the meeting”, “Attached, please find the proposal we discussed”, etc.
Anything more complicated than this runs the risk of having your intent and the message misinterpreted.
So, if you can’t meet face-to-face, what’s the next best thing?
The answer is a piece of technology over 100 years old which is the topic of our next blog.