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Stop Making Decisions By Email


Robby

Are you having a discussion by email? Quit it! Typing out your thoughts is among the worst way to engage in a conversation. The best way is to have an actual, face-to-face conversation.

There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t use email to make decisions, but I’m going to cover the big three. They are asynchronicity, soft confidentiality, and non-textual communication. Fancy words, right? But big ideas.

Email keyboard
© Flickr User miniyo73

Asynchronicity: Not Everyone Is On Email At the Same Time

As much as it might seem like we are all glued to our screens and our devices, we aren’t sending and receiving email at the exact same moment. Suppose Alice, Bob, and Carla want to make a decision. Alice emails Bob and Carla, and Bob responds right away. But Carla is away at a doctor’s appointment. Alice and Bob go back and forth for a few hours and by the time that Carla shows up, they’ve already made a decision. They assume that Carla’s non-response meant she was happy with their points.

In person, these sorts of things don’t happen. If Alice, Bob, and Carla get on a phone call or head to a conference room, they can all have the same conversation at the same time with 100% of their attention. That’s the right way to make decisions, instead of at potential delay over email.

Soft Confidentiality: No Need For Every Comment to Be Recorded Forever

Every so often, email transcripts end up getting into famous court cases or read into the Congressional Record. That’s because off-hand comments, brainstorming that ends up going nowhere, or just general discussion about the idea gets saved if it’s typed.

But most of the time, other people don’t need to see the sausage being made. And if you have to type it into an email, you might be less likely to say it. That’s a good reason to have the “soft confidentiality” of an in-person discussion. It’s a safe place to have no bad ideas while you’re working with others to get to a good idea.

Non-textual Communication: Most of What We Say Is More Than Words

“Yeah, right” can mean either an earnest “I understand and agree” or a sarcastic “sure, whatever, I don’t actually believe you.” Tone is difficult to read over email. You can’t hear what people’s voices sound like. And even if you get it right, you’re not seeing body language like you do in person.

Email is a terrible place to make decisions because most good conversation is more than just words. It’s intonation, appearance, hand waiving, sighing, smiles, and so on. We learn more about what people think through these mechanisms than we often do through the words they choose.

Plus, it’s harder to be careful in person. You say what’s on your mind, instead of taking as long as you want to carefully type it out.

Discussion Among Colleagues
© Flickr User Alan Levine

Don’t make decisions over email. Don’t have long conversations over email. Use email to coordinate and to confirm, but not to discuss. Get together in person and hash it out.

It’s worth it. Now, email this article to a friend and suggest a meeting to get their thoughts.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, December 14 2016 » Corporate Culture, Personal Organization, Technology Tips

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