Don’t waste good news over email

Sometimes, you get your best ideas from the people you are attempting to teach.

Yesterday, I gave a talk at a business convention and focused many of my remarks on email etiquette at work. As you know, I’m pretty passionate about this subject and even developed a training/edu-taining DVD (The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email Etiquette).

My first piece of advice is “Don’t give bad news over email.” Why? Email is a weak channel of communication when it comes to conveying your intentions. This is true based on decades of communications research.

Dr. Albert Mehrabian at the University of California has studied how humans decode intentions throughout his career. His findings suggest that email is a terrible way to convey intentions. It may deliver data and simple answers, but it doesn’t deliver a fraction of the communication power of a phone call or face to face meeting. Consider this graphic:

What does this mean? If you have bad news, criticism or emotional charged things to say, pick up the phone or see them face to face. This way they will understand you are a coach, not a dictator.

After my talk, an audience member approached me with a wonderful suggestion: Don’t give good news over email, either. Same reason: Email waters down the message. Additionally, email is so weak as a channel, your recipient might confuse your good news with jealousy, envy or snarkiness. “I thought you’d like to know, you got the promotion” over a blackberry could have many meanings. But a phone call with your authentic enthusiasm saying, “Dude, you got the big job!!!” conveys all the excitement and allows the moment to be powerful. Great idea.

Pick up The Dirty Dozen Rules Of Email DVD

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