Why email sucks (for really important conversations) [vlog]

Why Email Sucks vlog TalentGrow Halelly Azulay

Have you ever had someone react emotionally to an email you sent and catch you completely off-guard? Did you ever re-read and re-write the same email eleventy-million times before hitting 'send'? Do you want to communicate more effectively and not damage your relationships at work and otherwise? Watch this short video blog (vlog) to learn the common mistake many leaders and team members make when choosing email as their mode of communication when it comes to important conversations. Learn the science behind the negative reactions people often have to your carefully crafted emails and how to prevent these situations from happening. Improve your communication effectiveness and become a better leader.

Watch the vlog (video blog) and comment below - has this ever happened to you? What do you think about my suggestion?

Want to know more about the threat response and how to avoid it? Check out my blog about that topic titled What the FFF? Or, how to avoid triggering Fight, Flight, or Freeze responses in others. You might also enjoy the one about 3 Keys to Communication Success.

Begin transcript

Halelly Azulay: Have you ever had a situation where you wrote an email to someone and you careful crafted it, choosing your words carefully, probably reread it and rewrote it and maybe even you had someone else read it and help you edit it? And they didn’t understand you the way you intended them to? This happens to all of us. And a lot of times, when I’m working in workshops and consulting with leaders all around the country, this is a question that a lot of them ask me – “Hey, can you help me craft my emails better so that they are less misinterpreted?”

I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist with TalentGrow, and I’m here to tell you that my suggestion to those leaders and to you is don’t use email for important communication that may be misinterpreted. Don’t use email for that! Email is a fantastic tool, but it’s really good for dry, factual information, or very short, quick messages. It really isn’t good for important conversations, because we need the emotional subtext in those conversations in order to assess how are we doing with this person? What is our relationship like? What is trust like?

Here’s what we know from science. We now know our brain is constantly scanning the environment for signs of danger, for threats. But what we also now know is that our brain is actually going to perceive physical threats in the same way as it perceives social threats. Our brain doesn't see the difference between someone pointing a gun at you and someone potentially cutting you out from an important project at work. Our brain thinks of those things as equally dangerous, and it’s going to go into a threat reaction mode with either one of those.

So how do our brains assess the situation? Well, we’re looking for all of the information that comes in through all five senses. So we’re listening for the words that the person chose when they’re talking to us, but we’re also listening for all of the nonverbal components of the message. Like the tone of their voice, how loud they said it, how fast is their pitch and their project in that message? We’re also looking at their facial expressions as they’re giving us that message. Are they making eye contact, or are they averting their eyes? Are their brows furrowed? Do they smile? Are they frowning? What is their situation in terms of their shoulders, their physical body, their arm motions, their proximity to us? All of those things are really important components to the message and our brains know to read those.

And what we also know from studies that have been replicated over and over and over again, when there is an emotional subtext to a communication, and our brains are perceiving some kind of a mismatch between what the words are saying and what the rest of the body is saying in the nonverbal, guess which part of that mismatch the brain throws out as not credible? The words. Our brains, when they perceive that there is a mismatch between what the words they’re saying and how they’re being said, if that doesn’t seem congruent, our brain trusts the nonverbal message to be the delivery of the truth a lot more than the words. So for example, if you said, “I’m not angry,” those words are meaningful. But if the person said, “I’m not angry!” [shouting, arms crossed] then the rest of the message is actually saying, “Whoa, this person is pissed!” And your brain is going to read that and say, “You know what? Those words don’t mean anything to me. I don’t believe you. I think you’re mad.”

So what happens in email? We don’t have any of that context. We don’t have any of the nonverbal, emotional components of the message to read. And so your very helpful brain wants to get that information and guess what it does? It makes it up! We actually start to fill in the missing components to that message, with made-up stuff that we conjure up based on our mood at the moment, our past experiences with this person, what we’ve experienced with maybe a similar person or a person in a similar position who has said something like this, and a whole host of other things. This is where email really backfires big time, when there is some kind of an emotional relationship component to the message, because it’s missing context and our brains make it up. So much miscommunication can be avoided if we avoid email as our channel of communication for important conversations that we really need to be having face-to-face, or at minimum, picking up the phone so we have the vocal components of the message present.

I hope that this has been a helpful tip for you, and if you want more helpful information about how to increase your leadership effectiveness and improve your communication skills, please check out my regular blog, my regular weekly newsletter which is free, and of course the Podcast that I run, TalentGrow Show. All of that can be found on talentgrow.com. I look forward tostaying in touch with you, and until the next time, make today great.

End transcript

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You Might Also Like These Posts:

What the FFF? Or, how to avoid triggering Fight, Flight, or Freeze responses in others

3 Keys to Communication Success

The common mistake we make during critical conversations and how to avoid it