Email communication eliminates 93% of the communication equation. Without body language, facial and vocal cues, words alone can easily be misunderstood. According to Edward Muzio of Group Harmonics, the standalone words in our email can create more misunderstanding than understanding.
“. . . an email exchange makes it virtually impossible to convey visual cues (55 percent) and tone (38 percent), your recipient might “hear” something you didn’t intend.”
For example, what does this statement mean to you?
“What are you doing?” Without visual or vocal hints, it could mean:
You appear to be goofing off, are you doing any work?
I’m going to lunch, are you free?
The instructions given haven’t been followed, what planet are you on?
The work submitted is stellar, how you do such a great job?
Imagine the chaos those interpretations could cause! Hitting the send button is easy. Repairing the damage done as a result of a misunderstood email can be difficult, if not impossible. Muzio suggests using email only for facts and data. If the topic moves into the emotional realm or deals with issues than can be potentially misunderstood, pick up the phone or visit your colleague’s office to deliver the entire message –words and physical cues. With office workers getting up to 200 emails a day, how your words are perceived becomes more important than your intended meaning.