Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How Shall I Misunderstand Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

The link above is to a terrific article in the Christian Science Monitor about how many different ways e-mails contribute to misunderstandings. I had seen a shorter version of the article in a Boston Metro and was surprised to see how much more was in the original piece. It is pretty important research. To summarize:

* Lack of visual cues and and tone-of-voice contribute to misunderstandings;

* The speed of e-mail encourages senders and recipients to write and respond more quickly, without due consideration;

* E-mailers can't develop personal rapport; even a short telephone call will improve e-mail communications later.

* E-mail communication can contribute to prejudices about minorities. Read the article for more details about studies involving white women mis-identified as Asian or Black for purposes of the study.

* E-mail can be especially pernicious in that both the sender and recipient can be certain they are understanding each other, when both are misundertanding. The article includes a graph from another study on e-mail communications.

I love to use e-mail. It is so efficient. I can send a whole bunch of people the same message at once. They all get the same info, and there is a record of what I sent. Terrific! But I have certainly run into the problems of being misunderstood and of hitting send when I should have waited and cooled off! Let's see if I can learn from my mistakes!

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