A few weeks ago, I shared the story of how U.S. Cellular banned employees from using email on Fridays (as recounted in Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive*). The result was improved clarity and understanding since so much of how we communicate is non-verbal. So is the answer to banish email forever? Of course not.
Email certainly has its place for speed and the ability to be immediate without being intrusive (if it’s managed correctly, and you don’t become a slave to your “you’ve got mail” indicator). However, the lack of message indicators that we’ve relied on for the history of time – voice inflection, body language and facial expression – are missing from email, and that often leads to ambiguity. In research conducted by Justin Kruger, behavioral scientist, and his colleagues as cited in Yes!, senders of ambiguous messages were completely unaware that their messages were misunderstood. The problem is simply that a lot of folks don’t realize that their readers are not in their heads. The senders have full access to what they mean to say; the recipients do not.
In fact, the study went on to prove that senders clearly overestimated the degree to which the tone of the message was misconstrued… and the misunderstanding occurred between friends at the same rate as misunderstandings between two people who had only ever communicated with email. So the whole “can read me like a book” theory is a bit out the window. It’s true if you’re speaking, but not if you’re writing.
Is there a solution? Yes, at least you can improve the chances of your email message being clearly understood if you take a few minutes to review it and really think about what you’re writing. Don’t simply proofread for typos; proofread for places where you haven’t been clear, places where your reader can interpret what you’ve written in various ways. In many cases, it may be worthwhile to pick up the phone and call, or walk down the aisle and have a face-to-face conversation.
Technology has improved the speed and variety of communication, but unfortunately, it hasn’t improved the message!
Contact WriteWordForYou to make your message clear.
*by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin, and Robert B. Cialdini