Technology is Not Always Progress
It’s dark-thirty and you’re at your bathroom counter hastily going through your morning routine, getting ready for the day. You grab a tube, squeeze out a line of gel and start brushing your teeth. You gag as it hits you that the tube on your counter is NOT toothpaste. The right product, applied the wrong way has tainted your day before it even got started.
Congratulations if you don’t have any memories of an experience similar to the one here. But wait – have you ever gotten an email that left a bad taste in your mouth? How about one that twists your gut or makes you feel like the room just got hotter?
Without a doubt, email is a convenient and time-saving tool. But it becomes a liability when used for the wrong type of communications. I’ve found myself wearing the hat of a mediator more times than I can recount as a result of faulty communications that often started with an email.
When there’s a subject that is personal enough to engage emotions, sometimes a simple phone call can circumvent misunderstandings. The real time-savings is in avoiding a mess that has the potential to drain far more time than it takes to make a phone call.
The problem with email is that non-verbal communication is eliminated. Considering the following statistics from Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA who is recognized as an expert in the science of communication, it is no surprise that email messages can be the vehicle for misunderstandings.
Professor Mehrabian states that :
• 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken.
• 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said).
• 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.
Next time you have a message to deliver that affects feeling and attitudes, consider that your intent has a 7% chance of being interpreted as you intended. Even if the statistic were as high as 50%, you would still be better served to pick up the phone. These statistics also drive home the fact that if the message is weighty, a face-to-face meeting is the best choice. Technology is a wonderful thing, but don’t let convenience make you lazy when it comes to good relationships.
No one wants to be an example of the saying, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you read is not what I meant.”
The right message, delivered in the right way, can bring clarity and strength to relationships. Choose well.