Don’t get me wrong – I totally embrace digital communication. Email has transformed our business communications enabling us to cover more ground and respond with lightning speed – It’s unbelievable. Over the last several weeks, however, I’ve been increasingly surprised by how effective problem solving can be through face-to-face conversation or by just picking up the phone. More often than not, a question can be answered or a clarification made in a matter of minutes rather than a lengthy email chain. Got a problem? Pick up the phone.
We’ve run into a few situations recently in which a direct dial was made and boom – problem solved. Questions and uncertainties are the norm – so, make the call: “Hey, I’m still not sure I got that right;” or “What did you mean by that?” “Hey, I’m off track.” Or, “I just want to clarify the expectations here.” Situations like this could take 10 emails or more. A total time suck.
Has the tone of an email ever been misconstrued? There’s a vocal nuance conveyed in actual conversation whether it’s on the phone or in person, which simply can’t be communicated through email. In fact, I have an App called, “Ask Emma.” Emma reviews your email and provides feedback on whether you’ve come across as happy, concerned, ticked off or whatever. Believe me, it can be helpful when trying to communicate a quality message.
With technology aside, I believe our business partners appreciate the personal reach of a call or a one on one. We’ve seemingly forgotten this. I’m a big fan of email; but, as powerful as it is – digital exchanges are causing us to become passive aggressive and indirect in our communication.
And, if you believe there is a wall or sense of security between your email and the reader; there really isn’t. A miscommunicated point via email could have an unwanted effect.
I’m reminded of a journalism professor I had in college who proved his professional chops shooting news film in Vietnam. He said photojournalists can get lulled into a false sense of security because they are looking through a lens, unaware of danger around them until its too late. The same could apply to the seemingly indirect nature we have with email.
When an important message needs delivering – pick up the phone or look the person in the “baby blues” – a better policy in my view.
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