Monday, January 07, 2008

When not to send email

I recently gave some suggestions on when not to send email in a talk, and I was told that this was helpful. I thought I would share with you a few thoughts on this.

Email is great for information and instanteous communication. It is a good way to share positive ideas. It is helpful in staying in touch with people who are far off. It has a lot of benefits. But email can be misused.

Here are some things that email should not be used for:
  • Anything that is controversial or could generate heated discussion. There is simply too much room for misunderstanding. You can't read tone of voice. And it takes much longer to communicate.
  • Anything which is hurtful or critical. One line of criticism can stick in a person's mind for days or even weeks. If you get these emails, I suggest deleting them so that you don't read them over and over.
  • Anything which you would not be willing to say in person. Some use email as a "dump," telling a person off without having to face the person and see their reaction. This is less than human.
  • Anything which will keep people up late at night. For instance, if you have to crush someone's dreams, then do it in person or at least by phone.

I get jittery if I don't have access to my email for more than a few hours, I must admit. I think that many of us are addicted to information. However, I also often dread opening my email, particularly when something controversial is going on. We learned in our leadership circle a long time ago that discussion of controversial subjects by email was not productive. Say it for face to face time, where you can read human reaction and can dialogue in a spirit of trust.

What do you think are the pros and cons of email?


Jburgess80 said...

Pros...quick easy communication to those in a remote place. can run your life.

I like you, hate to be away from my e-mail for more than a few minutes. I carry a Mogul that has all three (right...three) of my e-mail accounts. Every time I get an e-mail it dings or vibrates. I feel like Pavlov's dog. When the kitchen timer dings, I'm checking my e-mail. I love communication and don't remember what it was like with out e-mail, or even with e-mail that I could only check when I was home in front of my "desktop" pc.
I'm going crazy right now though. After reading your blog last night I began thinking about my views on e-mail. I thought, what would I do without it? Well, today I am answering that question. I dropped my Mogul and cracked the screen. Sprint cannot replace it for 5 days. So, I am now back to checking my e-mail at home from my laptop. I hope I survive. Actually, it's a bit liberating! Ok, got to go, I have e-mails to check.....

James said...


You are right. Technology should be our servant, not our master. We have to remember that just because the cell phone rings, or we get an email, we don't have to answer it--at least not right away.