Why Email Goes Wrong
When was the last time you sent an email to someone, only to have him or her extract a meaning
that was totally different form the one that you intended?
When was the last time that you received an email and thought you had the message only to find
out later that you completely misunderstood what that the sender was trying to say?
If you are like most people, the answer to both of these questions is “not very long
In this chapter, we will take a close look at the two major reasons why this happens and some
ideas about how to prevent these potentially disastrous misunderstandings.
Lack Of Paralanguage
Paralanguage is the combination of voice tones, inflections, facial expressions, body language
and other clues that we get when we can see and hear someone. Research proves and you know from experience
that these clues provide much of the meaning that we extract from a communication.
Because email is restricted to words only, the same statement can be read completely
differently by different people. Factors that we depend on to understand the meanings of spoken communication
such as tone, emphasis, and expressions are completely missing from email and these factors don’t lead to
misunderstandings, lack of them does.
Demonstration Of Why Email Goes Wrong
Here's a graphic demonstration of why email goes wrong.
Similarly, people use inflection and gesture to soften the blow of negative communication, to
reduce the impact of bad news, or lessen unfavorable feedback. While speech conveys not only what is said but
also how it is said, email is limited to only words. Because of this, email contains less information
than voice or face-to-face communication. Research has shown that of human communication, only 7% is the
actual words that are spoken - 93% of communication is nonverbal (paralanguage).
What if Martin Luther King, Jr., had sent an email? (video link)