This is a personal story about my “Love-Hate” relationship with email. When the first email programmes became commercial round 1976, I was 13 years old.
This teenager lived by a river in Australia and spent most of her time on High School, homework, reading, and writing; or going for walks and exploring the river-side or swimming and prawning.
A highlight of my teen years was lining up among all the other kids in my family, eagerly waiting to try out the Olivetti manual typewriter. We thought it the best thing since sliced bread.
I used that typewriter while I was at University, and in 1983 I typed out my 3rd year Biology Project on the carbohydrate preferences of the Brown Honeyeater.
I typed out my friend’s report too, from her hand-written notes. The more accurate the translation, the less re-typing. Concentration was paramount.
Talking to people face to face and by posters, letter drops and telephone was the way to go before email. As a child, I sold lemonade, door to door, and I put posters up at my local deli, when suitable.
Enter electronic mail. The power of sending a message across a great distance or a short distance is great, and with great power comes great responsibility.
Writing an email that is concise and to the point, and gives all needed information. Re-read and review and edit your email before sending it.
Leaving your Signature Block at the end of your email. (I am not a mind reader or a clairvoyant and don’t know who you are.)
Giving complete and useful specific information when making a request for something. (Don’t assume things, and for example, send me an email asking me to “book my flight to China”, as I do need to know exactly where in China you are going and when, etc.)
Taking the time to read a whole entire email that you receive, for reading comprehension. (When you went to primary school you should have learned reading comprehension.)
Answering the question(s) that I asked you in my initial email.
I have been working for over 30 years and have noted a decline in the number of items of information in a single email that my readers are retaining. But even when I whittled the content of my out-going emails down to 2 pieces of information, I found that most of my readers only read the first item.
Seriously, do we live in such a “maddening world” with our precious time and our human resources stretched to the limit, so that a person reading a work email only takes 30 seconds on scanning an email?
It seems to me that twenty seconds tops are spent on gleaning what she / he thinks is the one main or important purpose of an email communication.
The first paragraph is noted and any words after that are disregarded. Sometimes an email communication does require more than one concept.
Also, have we forgotten that the written word cannot always convey emotional nuances, and that each person writes in his or her own way?
My new manager at work has told me not once, but TWICE this year, that 2 of my emails have been written in a passive-aggressive manner. This is absurd as my emails were not, and her perception of such was only due to both her state of mind at the time she read the emails and to her set viewpoint about how emails should be written.
Are some of us losing our capacity for reading emails for understanding?
Why do we email a person who is sitting right next to us? One answer is “for privacy”, which itself is a revelation of the work environment or ethos not being conducive to open communication.
IQ Test: If you have 1 bucket with 2 gallons and 1 bucket with 4 gallons, how many buckets you got?
From the movie “Idiocracy”
A Forbes article reports that:
Despite its endearing history and nearly inseparable connection with the surge of the World Wide Web, email is not an effective collaboration tool, and the progressively outsourced global workforce is shedding light on its numerous vulnerabilities.
It also states:
Email not only facilitates work, it has become a form of work in itself.
Email is also one-dimensional and simply outdated.
It’s well time for me to un-manage my 6 different email accounts by whittling them down to 2 or 3, and to do another splurge and delete the unimportant emails from those that I keep, which are most of the emails.
It’s well time for me to unsubscribe from 90 percent of the email newsletters and things that I have subscribed to.
Managing my personal email means having fewer email addresses and emails to manage. It means being organized, I know that, and I wish that readers of my work emails would organize and manage themselves to read for meaning.
I would rather use the telephone and letters than email for connecting with friends and family, but use of email and online messaging services is entrenched now.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate using email to communicate with my work colleagues and with external people if my emails are actually read; and to communicate quickly and easily with my friends and family, especially with friends around the world.
But even between friends and family, email communication does not always confer what is wanted to be communicated.
True communication could be done face-to-face or by telephone or by Face Time or another audio-visual option.
The lesson that I have learned by “living in an email world” is to not expect what I have expected of my readers, that they can understand at least 2 concepts in my emails, to make my emails shorter with the critical information in the first line, and to increase my talking to my colleagues and external parties I need to contact for work purposes.
Clear verbal communication, discussion and negotiation, or up-front and personal talk is worth it. Let’s do more of it.