Communication can be challenging, to say the least! When you speak face-to-face, you can see body language, gestures, and hear intonation. If that same conversation is on the phone, you essentially miss the body language and gestures. If that message is conveyed by email, you lose the intonation as well; and if text, it can be even more obscure.
Many people shoot off an email without regard to how the recipient is going to receive or interpret the message. For example, one person I work with reads whatever is visible on the screen of her phone. Her staff knows that everything important needs to be in the first few lines.
But what about people who don’t know about that behavior?
It takes much more care to dialogue electronically. Over time, you get to know the style of your colleagues and can read between the lines, but this takes time, effort and a desire to understand another person’s communication style.
This isn’t a new topic, but it’s timely because so many dialogues that used to be verbal have been replaced with electronic ones. Obviously, this takes more work, and leaders need to pay attention to the words that emerge from their keyboards.
Here’s an example: if you have a heated conversation in person, over time the exchange fades. You may remember the gist of it, but you move on.
But when a similar heated exchange occurs over email, the recipient can reread the email, get upset all over again, and even make a bigger deal out of the situation than is warranted. You may have been simply venting, but your employee is worried about what he may have done wrong.
This isn’t to suggest that you obsess over what your write. Rather, it’s to pay attention. Consider not only what you want to say, but how the meaning will be received.