How is your tone of email? In other words, do you convey your intentions very well over email? Or do you behave like Larry David’s character on Curb Your Enthusiasm, ignorant of how crazy you make other people feel? Do you melt down sometimes and fire off mad notes and then forget about them?
Dr. Albert Mehrabian has studied how humans decode intentions throughout his career. His findings suggest that email is a terrible way to convey intentions. It may deliver data and simple answers, but it doesn’t deliver a fraction of the communication power of a phone call or face to face meeting. Consider this graphic:
This brings me to my assignment for you, a personal audit of your own behavior. I dare you to look at all the emails you sent last Friday for tone of mail. As you read through these, put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. Does your tone pit you as a coach or a dictator? Does your email language make you look curt and insensitive? You might be shocked. If you are very courageous, you should have a buddy at work agree to do this with you — a cross audit. Yes, some emails are private, but most of them should be avaialble for your buddy’s scrutiny.
If you do this exercise once a month (Friday is a great day to audit, lotsa chatter) you will experience a paradigm shift in your email acumen. You’ll find yourself watching your tone of email and opting to use the phone to convey emotionally charged news or feedback.
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