As our world becomes more digital and the number of “personal” interactions with other people declines, we rely more on email and texting than phone conversations. There are a few drawbacks to this and I can bet that you have found yourself on one end or the other. As our interactions move more to email, we have to realize that these interactions are done without understanding inflections in voice and tone. It is becoming more common to misunderstand emails based on this and our responses may be out of line, and possibly detrimental to our career or relationships.
I can tell you from personal experience that misreading an email can have an impact on a relationship with a fellow employee or customer. What can be first read to be demeaning or insulting can later be read as a joke or common office humor. All too many times our realization comes at a price, we have already sent a reply that is stern, forceful, and usually miscalculated.
There isn’t much that can be done to avoid this as we are relying on an email or a text to get our message across, there is no tone, inflection, no facial response. With this transition away from personal interactions a new management strategy must be developed. A new training initiative should be developed by companies, much the same way that work place diversity trainings were the norm just a few years ago.
In the meantime, what can be done? Read the email or text message again, wait 24 hours before responding if possible. Get a co-worker’s or friend’s opinion. Create a response that is generic and void of emotion. The consequence of sending a response to a misunderstood message can be great and the time it takes to patch the damage can take more time than simply responding without emotion, calculating a response, or just taking the time to better understand the message in the first place.