Why Email is Good For Us
post # 112 — June 19, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations, General post
One of my past clients wrote to me as follows:
I’m planning a lecture to my staff and selected clients on the issue of e-mail versus personal contact (phone or face to face). Clearly the generations – boomers, xers and y’s relate quite differently to e-mail. Are we hiding behind our e-mails both internally and externally? I advocate we are increasingly.
I love being paradoxical, controversial and counter-intuitive, so even though it’s traditional to bemoan the increasing use of email, let me (just for the heck of it) take the other side and try to make the case (my points are serious here) why using email is INCREASING our abilities to connect:
a) You can type, re-type and re-re-type an email until it says what you want, the way you want it. Done right, there are none of the ambiguities of human speech ( “What I meant to say was..”) Email can promote clarity
b) You can ask a friend or a spouse or anyone else to help you say it right. Try doing THAT in the real world. Email can promote collaboration and friendship
c) You can keep five or six (or more) conversations going at once without anyone feeling slighted that you do not have all your focus on them alone. Email means you can make everyone feel special.
d) You can keep track of what people said and hold them to their promises. Email can promote honesty.
e) Email removes the visual, body-language, verbal-accent cues that we over-rely on when reacting to other people: email can promote the importance of reason and logic, and reduces bias due to gender, racial or national background or appearance. It is profoundly democratic and politically important.
f) Email allows us to think before we react, thereby promoting less stress, thoughtless comments and knee-jerk reactions. It allows people who are not naturally quick at interpreting other people’s remarks to reflect and respond with greater emotional intelligence. Email can facilitate good relationship interactions and language.
Seriously, folks, beyond the clichés that we have all heard, what do you think the strengths and weaknesses of email have been. How is it really changing us for the better AND for the worse?
Brad Farris said:
Good things about email:
1. It makes it easy to move documents from almost anyone to almost anyone.
2. There are those who will never return my phone call, who will always return my email.
3. It’s precise (written) communication, that leaves an audit trail (”… On June 20 you said…”). (Similar to David’s point d above.)
4. It allows for more asynchronous communication. Remember when we had to use voice mail for that? Sometimes it took hours to go through them all and you could only go through them serially. Email is much more effective than voice mail was.
5. The tools to create, process and read email are getting better and better. I can create a task reminder or calendar entry right from an email an retain all the background info that I need.
6. Because of all these reasons I really believe it enables me to get more done.
What don’t I like:
1. As Ahmet said, it’s fast, sometimes too fast.
2. Because if its ubiquity it gets used for things it shouldn’t. There are better tools for collaboration, meeting planning and group communication. But everyone understands email so we use it when we shouldn’t.
3. Without discipline it can get out of control. We need to process it like we do paper where we handle it once and either act on it, file it or delete it. Otherwise it can be a real time sink.
All that said, our kids will think of it like we think of phone service. It’s a must have communication tool.
posted on June 20, 2006