Why Is E-mail More Prone to Creating Unnecessary Conflict?

If you have any experience on the Internet or using your company’s internal email system, you probably realize that there is a great deal of very poor confrontational communication that occurs in the electronic medium. Why is that the case? E-mail is different from any other telegraphic medium because of the speed and lack of cost associated with it. It FEELS like face to face conversation and people write email very informally, almost as if they are sitting next to the other person, talking face-to-face. People don’t treat e-mail like formal letter writing. In formal letter writing (another telegraphic medium) people will write, edit, reread and ponder over the communication, particularly if it is important. The result of a well-crafted letter in business should be a clear document, well thought out, that expresses the content and tone of the sender of the letter.

Here’s the core issue. Although e-mail is telegraphic communication, people treat it like face-to-face communication, and get into trouble. They dash off notes quickly, don’t reread their e-mails before sending them, and presume that their written words will be understood exactly as they intend. What they forget is that it isn’t face-to-face communication and is limited in its ability to get the correct tone across without careful crafting and editing of the message. That’s why there is a very high level of miscommunication related to electronic communication.

We need to understand that e-mail is most like letter-writing, despite the appearance of it being like face-to-face. It may be a “fast-food world” edition of letter-writing but letter-writing it is. We need to treat it accordingly in the workplace or risk miscommunicating and creating unnecessary conflict.

This is an excerpt from Robert Bacal’s book, Conflict Prevention In the Workplace – Using Cooperative Communication.

See Also: Why and how is email communication different from any other medium? And some communication theory to boot.


Views: 0

Leave a Reply