Business Communication: The email

With endorsements from the likes of Bill Bryson, the Colbert report, and Dave Barry you can’t go wrong, so it was with great anticipation that I picked up David Shipley and Will Schwalbe’s book, “Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better”.

I wasn’t disappointed; in fact I read the whole book in one sitting!

The first thing that the book addresses is the whole dilemma of trying to decipher whether the email sitting in your Inbox means exactly what it says or if there is a hidden meaning that you should be aware of and respond to.

I was thrilled to learn that I’m not the only one to puzzle over this; even famous people struggle with email’s lack of emotional tone.  Shipley and Schwalbe explain that, since email isn’t accompanied by any type of emotional signals (facial expressions, tone of voice, body language), then we are free to project all of our greatest fears into the most basic sentences which often leads to misunderstandings or hurt feelings. They point out that this can be a real time-waster and is often best solved by simply picking up the phone and clarifying things with the sender.

A second interesting point they made was that, “Just because you have email doesn’t mean it should be used for everything!” The authors suggest that before you communicate with someone (particularly in a professional way) that you take the time to evaluate the pros and cons of each type of communication before you commit to the best one for your situation. “What other choices do I have?” you might ask. Remember letters? Faxes? Phone calls? IM’s and texts, in-person meetings by the water cooler?

 It’s up to you to thoughtfully decide how you want to mix and match your communication forms to best suit your clients, co-workers, and friends.


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