Sometimes sending an email is really stupid. I know, my Mom tried to teach me that calling someone or something stupid is not very nice. But, I can’t think of any better way to say it. Simply put, there are occasions when you are being stupid to send an email.
In my last post, I wrote about the need for a personally effective and efficient solution for managing the deluge of email. But today I want to rant about two mistakes I see all the time. I am amazed, not just at how often these happen, but how surprised people are at the fallout from their actions.
Stupid Action #1::
Using Email to Communicate or Resolve Relationally Complex Situations
Can I just ask, what are we thinking? We all know the majority of communication happens non-verbally. The statistics I remember are that only 7% of all communication happens through the words we use. 40% of meaning is picked up through body language and 53% happens through tone of voice.
Yet, all the time, I read emails from people who are trying to express a complicated matter or resolve an interpersonal problem through email where all you have to work with are words. That’s like trying to swim across the English Channel with your hands tied behind your back. You are leaving 93% of what it takes to communicate effectively off the table.
The result? On the best days, this approach sets you up for three or four rounds of emails to explain, re-clarify, and soothe over what was misunderstood in your original missive. More often than not, these ill-advised email bombs leave emotional shrapnel in the very people you had hoped to serve with the information in the first place.
I know that email is easy, but more info
if you face a situation that is complex, a situation where relationships are going to be effected, or are delivering emotionally charged information, DON’T DO IT! Find a way to connect in person, even if only by phone. At least by phone you have 60% of your communication horsepower.
I know that writing an email is is easy and accessible, but why would anyone choose to communicate in such a handicapped way?
Stupid Action #2::
Including Your Private or Volatile Opinions in Email
Here’s the rule: unless you want what you write broadcast to the world, don’t put it in an email!
How many times have you seen someone send an email that is actually confidential information? I’ve seen things that range from unguarded caustic opinions about a co-worker, to blatant gossip, to personal data.
To be repetitive, what are we thinking?
Once you put something in print, it is out of your hands. You have no control when and where it gets sent. Sure, you can ask that your comments be held in confidence, but it is common for an email thread to be forwarded to someone else in the future. And, all it takes is for someone to forget your confidential opinions were included earlier. Voila! Scroll down and your earlier ‘confidential’ comments are posted for all to see.
You wouldn’t publish your credit card information out there for all to see, so why would you put other volatile opinions out there? At least when it is your own personal data, you are the one who will be effected. But, when unguarded opinions and other confidential information are spread around other people are hurt.
Let me make it simple. On those days when you need the cathartic experience of vomiting your frustration to someone who you think might care, just don’t do it on email.
To make it even simpler: Stop It!