E-mail is an excellent form of fast, efficient communication. As with any great tool, it can be misused. It is important to recognize that e-mail is not dialogue. It is a vehicle to share information. With that in mind, here are tips on when to e-mail, and when e-mail is not the best means of communication:
When discussion is needed, e-mail is not. In instances when it is important to be able to hear others’ points of view, to see body language, or to negotiate, e-mail is not the best means of communication.
When the meeting is needed, e-mail is not. Many times people will try to use e-mail to discuss opinions that would be much better handled in a brief meeting or teleconference. Multiple strings of related communications can be very frustrating to all recipients, without productive return.
Consider the overall time of the transaction rather than the small amount of time sending one message. When the overall time to resolve the issue is shorter via telephone or discussion, once again, e-mail is not the best method. People talk almost four times faster than they can type, so a lot can be accomplished in a face-to-face meeting or telephone conversation.
E-mail and emotion do not mix. Sensitive issues, emotional responses, and constructive criticism are all best avoided by e-mail. E-mail communications can be misinterpreted easily because of the lack of voice inflection and body language, and promotional and sensitive communications can easily be misread. Either avoid them altogether or communicate in person.
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