Thursday, September 30, 2010

Familar Land Mines: Emotional E-mails

Emotions, not for email.  A friend was experiencing a legitimate frustration in a committee planning cycle and called me to read an e-mail response before sending it.  The act of reading it aloud was all she needed, hearing her words did the editing trick. 

I still encouraged her that being right in expressing her frustration was not enought to make it wise---e-mails are only able to effectively handle facts.  E-mail communication crumbles under the weight of expressing emotions.

This is true in both negative and positive ways.  Does the smiley face at the end of the statement really discount the sarcasm that precedes it? (nope)  Do lines of exclamation points and other punctuation abuse drive home a point with more clarity?  (not so much)  Is YELLING AT SOMEONE THROUGH YOUR CAP LOCK BUTTON going to make them listen more closely? (I am thinking, no)

We know this, so why do we continue to try and communicate our emotions through a vehicle which will result in worse communication and exaggerate problems versus solve them?  Why do we choose to make matters worse?

I think it is the quick fix, the momentary satisfaction of pushing the send button and sending the attitude in addition to the information.

It's not just negative e-mails either--cute does not correspond well either.  A written story can be funny, but one-liners, cute comebacks, the cyber equivalent of a wink wink (also can be tried, without much effectiveness through punctuation ;) does not really add value to the message ;) ---does it?

My advice, not needed as the writer of this e-mail knew it, was stick to facts.  The beauty of e-mail is in the quick exchange.  It can be used to share a story, if the writer is up to taking the time to write the context--who, what, where, when, how and why.

But use words to express facts not emotions.  If you are mad, say, "I am mad or frustrated," straight up.  Only say, "thanks a lot" if you mean thanks a lot.  If you mean, "I don't appreciate this," then say that.

E-mail should not be a guess what I am really feeling through this quick hit or new punctuation symbol combo.

Corporations now have e-mail style books and etiquette, which points to the fact I have not stumbled upon a new tension.  However, it is a tension and frankly temptation that I confront regularly.  This post is a reminder to me, to communicate emotions I need the full context of body language and I need my listener to have the chance to reply.  I need to wait for face or face, and not with a snarky statement followed by and assortment of  :) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. I deplore and detest multiple exclamation points. It's a peeve of mine. Just so you know.

    Also, I agree. Himself has rec'd email responses to his emails (from women, I might add) that go something like: "Why are you mad?" He's not mad; he's juts terse. And in an email, that comes across as mad. I had to explain that to him.

    Just an example of the limitations of the medium.



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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?