Jared Richardson talks of why he hates email today. Just had a similar conversation with a buddy on Sunday night, although the reasons differ. I made the comment then that email has made us much less efficient with communication. We send more information, but accomplish less with it.Jared notes that email cannot communicate emotion, and I agree. It should not be used as the means to communicate whenever emotion is part of the message (an alarming amount of the time, if you think about it). You can’t convince people of much via email — people don’t change their minds much after reading them. About the most emotional response you can get out of an email is an angry email… or a phone call. Which leads us to believe that perhaps that wasn’t the needed medium to begin with.There are lots of reasons why email is not the ideal communications forum. I think the major issue in communication with email is that it’s one-way and asynchronous, and communication by it’s very definition is about EXCHANGE. People don’t respond for the same reason that voice mails don’t get answered — it’s not an exchange, it’s a dump. Second, most emails are one-and-done, or result in too many back-and-forth responses to be efficient, and people miss the entire point. Most are poorly constructed, and the action item and desired result are lost in a too-long discourse of details that hide the real issue.My last reason and my personal passion: since there is really no delivery mechanism, there is little way to get and retain the attention of your audience. Most people skim read emails to see if there’s a reason to pay attention. If they listen that way, then the communicator is not doing their job. It is a rare writer (or topic) that sends an email that is a compelling read. But a presenter can make the difference with even the most drab subject, and the most alive subject dies at the hands of a lousy presenter. Either way, it’s the presentation and it’s medium that makes or breaks the message. Most emails are broken before the send button is ever pressed.It’s an interesting exercise — imagine a day in your business life where you were not allowed to communicate via email. How would that change how, how often, what, and why you communicated? You’d value the time with others, and you’d practice/organize a message that brought impact to the situation. In short, you’d probably communicate the way you should!
Email has its place — don’t confuse that place with effective communication delivery and exchange of ideas.