Email Communication

I was having lunch with Adrian recently and we were talking about how people work with email. One thing he said made me stop and think about the different ways people treat email and the potential problems that can occur if they aren't aware of the differences.

What he said was, "e-mail is a conversation, not a considered media".

Now some people treat e-mail as a "considered media", I must admit I'm one of them. When I put together either a response to an e-mail or create a new email, I spend time crafting it and reviewing it before I send it. In a few cases, the people I send them too are "email conversationalists" and so I regularly get short responses that don't always address my entire e-mail.

This reminded me of the Myers-Briggs "E" versus "I" categorisation and the confusion that can occur when they interact unknowingly.

'E' types tend to think by talking, whereas 'I' people tend to think then speak. As such, when an 'E' is talking to an 'I', the 'E' is looking for the type of feedback they would give that they understand. As the 'I' internalises this feedback, it is possible for the 'E' to continue way past the point the 'I' understood, causing frustration on both behalfs.

Understanding this makes for significantly more useful conversations between the two types.

So what happens when a person who treats email as a considered media gets a quick response from someone who doesn't. Well it's possible they read more into the response than was intended and hence draw the wrong conclusions. Alternatively, they get frustrated that not all of their questions were answered.

Equally, the other party can get frustrated with the "long" email and so skims, possibly missing important information or questions.

Next time you receive an email, consider the approach the person sending it may have taken and engage in the conversation appropriately.

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