Email Wars

The purpose of email is to send communications and information to other people. If you send bulk email you must ensure that people have the option of easily unsubscribing from your list, otherwise you’re spamming them. However,  that’s not what this little rant is about. It’s about something else.

Email is a poor medium for conducting a dispute with someone. Here’s why:

1. It feels easier to lambaste someone in writing. You’re less likely to do so verbally in real time. That’s just how people are. So writing kind of protects you? It doesn’t.
2. When you put something in writing you can’t take it back. Once it’s in writing, it’s confirmed. What’s worse is that your writings can be used in evidence against you.
3. There is no “tone of voice” in writing, so the reader has only the text to go on. Your tone will be subject to the readers interpretation. Therefore if you are building a case against them, that’s exactly what it will look like in writing. Which is why the response you get is most likely to take on the same tone as your writing.
4. It takes a long time to put together a watertight argument on email, and several edits so that it doesn’t sound too harsh. If you’re on the attack – a hastily written diatribe is a seriously bad idea.
5. An email is a monologue, meaning the target can not respond in real time.
6. It can take hours, days or weeks as the message goes back and forth, and the heat is likely to escalate with each email.
7. You have no guarantee that your target won’t “carbon copy” the other people in on their response
8. It’s very easy to ruin a relationship on email due to a misunderstanding.

So what would be better?

Pick up the phone and phone ’em! That way you can have a “real time” conversation with them and stand a better chance of resolving things quicker and with far less antagonism. You are more likely to be reasonable on the phone than in writing.

Can’t get through? Send a text message asking to speak to them about something important. No response? Follow up with the same message via email. Still no response? Try the dreaded voicemail. Still no luck? Phone their land line and leave a message with a real person. Then wait 7 days – you never know, they may be on leave. Then start again.

Email wars almost always exacerbate a tense situation and are best avoided. Getting multiple parties involved in an email war can have devastating consequences.

On the other had, email is still a wonderful tool, but only if used smartly, and appropriately.

Paul du Toit, Certified Speaking Professional, Author, Blogger, MD Congruence Training (Pty) Ltd

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