Food for thought on posting.

Discussion in 'Announcements, Feedback, Issues, & Guides' started by kstaven, Sep 4, 2008.

  1. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    Avoiding Email Catastrophe

    Email lacks the non-verbal intonation of our intentions, and
    therefore often confuses and even offends readers.

    By: Louise DobsonTOP

    We've all done it. Hurriedly composed a witty email, hit the send
    button and sat back to await the electronic belly laugh that the
    reply is sure to include. Minutes tick by, lunch comes and goes, the
    day winds down with no response. Finally, you reach for the phone and
    call your email buddy for the overdue giggle fest, only to find she's
    furious with you. You thought you were making a hilarious joke—but
    she completely misunderstood.

    How could this happen? Apparently, with over 75 million people using
    email every day in the U.S., it happens all the time. And it's not
    just humor that gets misinterpreted in emails: Messages meant to
    convey mild displeasure can come across as tirades, and serious
    comments can be misconstrued as snide sarcasm.

    In fact, in a series of studies, participants were only able to
    accurately communicate sarcasm and humor in barely half—56 percent—of
    the emails they sent. What's worse, most people had no idea that they
    weren't making themselves understood.

    According to Nicholas Epley, a professor of psychology at the
    University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, our natural
    tendency toward egocentrism is at the root of the problem. It's not
    that we're all narcissists: People just have a tough time detaching
    themselves from their own perspective and imagining how their
    statements could be "heard" differently.

    The fact that we're usually very good at making ourselves understood
    is also what trips us up in the email domain. "We're all so adept at
    processing nonverbal cues that we do it without thought, in a happy-
    go-lucky way." So much so, that we often don't recognize ambiguous
    meanings, like in that dashed-off email that could be read two
    different ways.

    When communication is stripped down to mere words, the stage is set
    for confusion. Talking to someone face-to-face, in contrast, provides
    us with mountains of information that we unconsciously use to inform
    our interpretations.

    We understand, for example, that if someone suddenly and dramatically
    widens their eyes ("flashbulb eyes") they are expressing surprise. A
    shrug of the shoulders may indicate confusion. Hands in a palms-down
    position often suggests assertiveness, whereas upward facing palms
    shows vulnerability or non-aggression.

    We're even pretty good at detecting false cues, such as the fake
    smile of a harried shop clerk. A heartfelt smile will not only
    lengthen the mouth, but also turn it up at corners. In addition, a
    real smile creates crow's feet wrinkles around the eyes.

    No one is quite sure how much of our communication is nonverbal. The
    statistics of anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell suggest it's around 65
    percent, but other scientists put it as high as 93 percent.

    Unfortunately, as David Givens, Director of the Center for Nonverbal
    Studies in Washington points out, our writing skills have not yet
    begun to compensate for the lack of data that is inherent in written
    communication. "Perhaps a case could be made for an email writing
    section to be included in English classes," suggests Givens.

    Epley recommends basic reflection. "Re-reading an email can reveal
    potential problems," he says. "Better still, read it aloud and listen
    closely for ambiguity." For important emails, Epley suggests walking
    away from the computer and coming back to it later with fresh eyes.

    And for those who just don't trust themselves to be courteous.
    Eudora, the software manufacturer, added a feature to its email
    software that detects strings of words that have the potential to
    offend. "Mood Watch" alerts the user to incendiary phrases with red
    chili pepper icons, one, two, or three of them depending upon the
    potential to burn.

    The feature provides a safety net for catching those heat-of-the-
    moment emails, but Eudora reps admit that, like the rest of us, "Mood
    Watch" is often completely baffled by electronic sarcasm.

    Psyched for Success, 5 April 2006
    Last Reviewed 28 Aug 2008
    Article ID: 4049
  2. dacjohns

    dacjohns People Cracker Upper

    Yes. And attaching smilies doesn't always work.
  3. rooster-red

    rooster-red Here comes the Rooster

    Jun 10, 2007
    Douglasville GA
    So true!
  4. WriterofWords

    WriterofWords Has Fainting Chickens

    Dec 25, 2007
    Chaparral, New Mexico
    I think in some cases attaching smilies when you know what you are saying is crass or rude is the same as starting a sentence with "Bless her heart!". You know whatever follows isn't going to be good, and probably shouldn't be said even though it might sound funny at the time.
    I had an instance a few years ago where I sent an email describing something that happened at school with another teacher who is a friend of mine to another friend this teacher didn't know. Unfortunately I hit the wrong address and sent it to the teacher this happened with, needless to say when I emailed the intended person to see why they hadn't responded and found out they never got it, no amount of smilies was going to fix it!
  5. injunjoe

    injunjoe Songster

    Jun 1, 2008
    Pasco county, FL.
    Very good point. [​IMG]
    Every time I reread my posts I feel even more stupid! [​IMG]
  6. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    I think the worst oops I ever saw, was with a national committee I was with. One of our directors and a good friend missed an online meeting that was critical. I emailed him on it, and he replied explaining in lurid detail why he missed the meeting. It was concerning his date that night. He accidentally replied to the entire directors group rather than just myself.
  7. dlhunicorn

    dlhunicorn Human Encyclopedia

    Jan 11, 2007
    Unfortunately I hit the wrong address and sent it to the teacher this happened with, needless to say when I emailed the intended person to see why they hadn't responded and found out they never got it, no amount of smilies was going to fix it!

  8. kstaven

    kstaven Crowing

    Jan 26, 2007
    BC, Washington Border
    Considering the potentially volatile nature of some of the current topics I think we all need to review the original message in this thread.

    Lets keep this forum friendly and polite folks.

  9. debilorrah

    debilorrah The Great Guru of Yap

    This makes me cry. [​IMG] i have a very dear friend - one I would give my life for. She and email all the time because she is in a different state. Once, I was dating a guy she thought was wrong (she was right) and she stopped talking to me for months. We made up and all was well for 2 years. I am in a new relationship now, and an awesome at that, and right after we became engaged she cut off all contact. I have no idea why. She is no jealous or vindictive in any way. I am hurt. So this article rings true for me. [​IMG]
  10. debilorrah

    debilorrah The Great Guru of Yap


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