Jul. 17, 2009
Lack of phone and Internet service on a recent Monday morning due to a weekend storm put me into a mode of calling clients and other colleagues on my cell when I would normally be e-mailing. While initially annoyed by the thought of having to do this knowing a simple e-mail would suffice, I found I enjoyed this rare break from the norm.
Obviously, we are creatures of habit. And habit over the last 10 years has been a growing reliance on e-mail as the main source of communication in the business world. It can be quick and efficient and allows you to say just what you want in a relatively non-invasive way. It also serves as a critical archival source that has many times saved me when needing to confirm a quote, printing quantity, or client edit to a brochure or magazine. I love all these aspects of e-mail and can’t imagine functioning without it for a long period of time.
With that said, my brief foray back into the early 1990s reminded me that sometimes there’s nothing better than connecting with people in person or over the phone. E-mail, or texting for that matter, can generally handle the load in terms of some simple, weekly correspondence that needs to be conducted. However, in my opinion, it’s never been a strong way to convey personality and emotion – which to me are critical keys to building and maintaining relationships.
I believe long term reliance on e-mail can, albeit slowly, start to erode some of the business socialization skills we worked hard to refine when we started out in our careers. Certainly this doesn’t happen overnight, and may not have much of an impact on certain people, but I have no doubt that continued reliance on this passive form of communication can be a long-term threat to healthy business socialization habits.
What our Internet blackout reminded me was that too many times we instinctively fall back on e-mail when we should stop to think if picking up the phone or dropping in to see someone can deliver the message we want to convey and also be an opportunity for critical interpersonal interaction. In this sense I laugh at the parents of teenagers who lament the fact that their kids’ social skills are declining due to their addiction to texting while these same parents spend a majority of their day e-mailing.
So while I don’t see my preferred means of business communication changing radically from e-mail, I realize that it has significant limitations. So don’t be surprised to hear from me sometime soon. While you might be thinking to yourself, “Why didn’t he just e-mail me that,” now you’ll at least know why.
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