It is unfortunate that with the great advances made in productivity applications, none of the mainstream e-mail application developers have sufficiently advanced automation to support appropriate usage. Your e-mail client may prompt you to fix spelling or grammatical mistakes, but does it warn you when you are in the midst of an e-mail “tennis volley” that sending one more response is unlikely to reach the conclusion you seek?
How you say something is as important as what you say, and this includes the medium used.
E-mail is a good medium when:
- You are confirming the outcomes of a meeting. It is helpful to put the most critical information as a couple of bullets in the e-mail message, and capture the full details in a separate set of (attached) minutes.
- You are sharing information without making a specific call to action – the classic FYI
E-mail should not be the primary medium when:
- The topic is likely to result in a robust discussion.
- You are requesting an urgent call to action from a small group of people
- It is critical you gauge the perceptions and impact of the message
- The information shared or the calls to action are not extremely clear
While communication latency has been significantly reduced through ubiquitous connectivity and smart devices, e-mail is inherently an asynchronous medium which, when combined with the native inability for the written word to consistently convey a message, causes reduced effectiveness.
E-mail abuse is a form of short termism – sending an e-mail takes less effort than picking up the phone or organizing a meeting, gives us our quick high of having accomplished something, and usually helps us avoid the discomfort of the recipient’s immediate reaction. However, all we’ve done is to increase the likelihood of wasted effort and conflict in getting to the desired outcome.
Anything worth saying, is worth saying well!