Saturday, June 27, 2009

You've Got Mail!

By Amy Price PhD

Email can be a gift that allows you to communicate across continents, collaborate on projects, keep in touch with loved ones and make friends from all over the globe. It is also a two edged sword with a blade that just doesn't cut it.

I am usually diplomatic, tech savvy and have even done years of Post Graduate training online. Occasionally things just go wrong and something you write or recieve is taken out of context or misunderstood and suddenly there can be a negative spiral there is no digging out of.

I used to play the game and send the reply to all, explain, justify or crawl. Not anymore after two negative exchanges I meet face to face or pick up the low tech telephone and I call and talk things through. Those who don't 'have time' are not worth wasting my life on and with a quick mental next please, I move on!

I used to think I was obligated to the communication medium chosen by the one who initiated the communication but not anymore. I learned from friends high up in national security that they are instructed to pick up the phone or pay a visit after the second negative email response. This makes sense as email is never truly listening, it is forced talking from your own perspective one person at a time or in the reply all situation it can be like gang warfare!

Surveys report that 95% of us get at least one misunderstood email a week that causes future issues. Perhaps it is time to recognise that people need eye contact, touch and even smell to be at their best as communicators. A huge amount of communication is non verbal and words just establish what is already understood. We pick up cues from each other and our surroundings. With emails we miss the neurotransmitter connections and the hormones like oxytocin that lead conversation to be a pleasurable experience. We miss out on smiles that crinkle up to the eyes or real laughter and loyalty between friends. We can't even say I don't want to talk about this right now because there it is...all over the page expecting a response

I recently had my personal email account hacked by a group I had known for years. The emotion I felt paralysed me, I felt more afraid and violated than when I was confronted with firebombs and my life threatened on the mission field, at least there the enemy identified themselves upfront! No email security is 100%. Put nothing in an email that you could not live with if it showed up on the local news!

So to is a tool it is not your master. You can choose the response and the medium. Loving people is the best use of our time and it is never wasted!