You’re Missing 93%

One of the things I find to be both a blessing and a curse in our modern business world is email. As someone who can remember the days of typing (On a typewriter! With carbon paper for copies!) business correspondence and sticking it in an envelope prior to a days-long wait for a response, email’s immediacy is a blessing. Things happen! Stuff gets done! That’s great, but there are a few downsides and they’re worth thinking about.

First, because email is so fast, we tend to send missives off rather quickly. One thing the slow pace of written correspondence used to force was a thorough consideration of each thing we sent. Letters took time to craft and revisions took even longer because until the widespread use of the word processor one had to retype the entire document. Think about what a business partner would think if you were sending snail mail as you do email. Would you send a letter that simply said “OK” or “thanks” or any of the silly little emails we send? Would you send four notes a day, all within an hour of one another? Probably not.

The reality is that you’d probably not send a note at all. You’d pick up the telephone or, if it’s a work colleague, walk down the hall to see them. That’s the real downside of email, and I think it’s a huge problem. Why? I’ll let Psychology Today answer:

If there were ever numbers associated with body language and nonverbal communication, 55, 38, and 7 would be it. People often refer to these numbers as the standard for understanding nonverbal communication and expressing its importance- specifically over the words being spoken…The numbers represent the percentages of importance of varying communication channels have with the belief that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.

In other words, by using email as our primary form of interaction – with coworkers, with partners, with customers, or with vendors – we’re missing 93% of what they’re saying because they’re saying it either with body language or with their tone of voice.  The telephone helps capture the latter but we’re still missing more than half.

I realize that it’s not always practical to go see someone and you also want many communications to be in writing.  But in addition to the blessing (??) of email, we also have the gift of many video chatting platforms.  Skype, Facetime, Hangouts, and others make interacting with someone a near in-person experience.  More importantly, they can help assure that you’re “hearing” them because you can see all the non-verbal nuances that are NEVER available in email. Make sense?

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