Sunday, February 12, 2006

How effective is email?

I've been growing increasingly disenchanted with email as a communication medium lately. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm getting disenchanted with the way it's used, not with the medium itself. It's one of the least effective forms of communication because it lacks all the meta-language of phone call or better yet, face-to-face communication. The "meta-content" of your voice like tone, pace, pauses, etc., are all missing from email as is facial expression...duh. Some studies suggest that almost seventy percent of communication comes through this meta-language.

What's problematic is that, according to this University of Chicago study, people consistently overestimate their ability to convey tone in email. Check out this Lifehacker post about the study. To boil it down:
The reason for this communication disconnect, the researchers find, is egocentrism...
Think about. We are more and more chosing modes of communication which are easiest because they leave the other partner out; they begin and end primarily with the "sender". We don't have to (immediately) respond and alter our tone, pace or choice of words, to be understood by the "receiver." Unfortunately, with email it is all about ME. When communicating let's try to pick the most effective modes first.
  1. Face-to-face
  2. Telephone/VOIP
  3. Voice mail
  4. Email
Good luck communicating!

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