Ever get that sinking feeling when you fire off an email in a huff and realize that probably wasn’t such a great idea? If you’ve been emailing at all over the past decade or so, yes, you probably have. What is it about email that incites such communication gaffes? Could it be the brevity and the tendency to leave out little details to save time? Questions raised or answers provided that don’t address what the other person needs? The inability to convey accurate emotions behind the text (emoticons notwithstanding)?
Yes to all. But, I would say the most important element is that we are tremendously reliant on the non-verbal cues in our communication. When we interact with others, we continuously give and receive wordless cues – the eye contact, gestures we make, our tone of voice, additional words added for emphasis or explanation.
As an HR practitioner, I take this to heart. My work is about people and mine are spread out all over the world. Email is often the only way to reach someone when they’re in a different time zone, and I want to respond as quickly as possible. So yes, I do rely on email….but I try really hard to convey the earnestness and empathy I show in person.
While email is a necessity of our daily work (and personal lives), truly, the best connection I have with my people is face-to-face or phone-to-phone. In these ways, I’m able to reflect my true personality with either the seriousness or good humor that the situation allows. I can try to do this in email, but I have learned that people respond so much better to the guidance or advice I give in person.
As digital marketers, we also recognize the barriers to face-to-face interaction that our clients experience when trying to engage their customers and prospects. As a product of the online world, brands must get their point across to consumers via tweets, social posts, and search ads. Instead of live, personal conversations, marketers can be limited to only a few lines (or 140 characters in some instances!) to make an impact.
The online or electronic interaction can seem distant and impersonal, so it’s important to inject some color and humanity into your words (especially for brands and advertisers). Strive to develop those 1:1 connections with your audience, whether it’s your co-workers or your consumers.
In the workplace, do your best to pick up the phone or do a walk-by – you might pick up some extra helpful information or learn a bit more about your co-worker. And since we work with each other many hours a day, it’s kind of nice to get to know someone a little better, isn’t it?
My own rules are 1) if the information must go out to lots of people at once, spend as much time as you can to get it right – it’s worth it, and 2) if an email thread has 3+ responses and the question or issue isn’t resolved, I walk over or call the person.
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