I find email to be inherently flawed as a communication channel because of the lack of emotional cues that help us to interpret the mood of the sender and to sense any undercurrents. According to the scholarly paper “Carrying Too Heavy a Load? The Communication and Miscommunication of Emotion by Email” coming out in next month’s issue of The Academy of Management Review, people misinterpret positive e-mail messages as more neutral, and neutral ones as more negative, than the sender intended. According to the NY Times article E-Mail Is Easy to Write (and to Misread), this happens because the sender internally “hears” emotional overtones, though none of these cues will be sensed by the recipient. Think about that the next time you do a marathon email session, cranking out dozens of emails to valued business partners, clients, prospects, coworkers and friends. Constructive criticism done via email discourse can quickly escalate and spiral downwards. If it’s at all touchy, hold off on the email and pick up the phone.
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