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Averse to Talking on the Phone? Here are 3 Tips to Avoid Miscommunication Over Email

Let’s face it, lots of us hate talking on the phone. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, the common consensus is that emailing (or messaging of any kind really) is preferable for us millennials. There are lots of opinions as to why. Some of us just don’t have as much practice as previous generations. Phone calls don’t give you time to think about how to respond. And emailing is faster, not to mention trackable. At work, email has become a standard part of the day-to-day. But emails have one severe drawback – miscommunication.


Why is miscommunication over email so common?

Humans are wired to understand each other through visual and audible cues. Albert Mehrabian's 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication states that words, tone of voice, and body language respectively account for 7%, 38%, and 55% of personal communication. In other words, we are missing out on 93% of communication effectiveness by circumnavigating the brains emotional circuitry when we choose to email someone.

What can I do to ensure my emails are clear to the reader?

Avoid using “passive voice – Passive voice is when the grammatical subject of the sentence is placed last in the sentence itself. For example "Our team finished the assignment” is the subject of a sentence or clause, in the passive voice it would read "The assignment was finished by our team." Being direct helps the reader process your message.

Use tonal cues – Millennials have an advantage in this field, but also a disadvantage. We are used to adding exclamation points (or emojis) to the ends of sentences to demonstrate our feeling of positivity (joy, excitement, surprise, etc). However, we can often misinterpret emails that don’t include such tonal cues. How would you interpret an email response that said simply, “Thank you.”? At first glance, this might appear passive aggressive, dismissive, or sarcastic. However, the sender may have assumed you would take their message literally, and not read any tone into it. Re-read your emails for “tone” before clicking send.

Address each recipient by name – Have you ever been on an email with 10 other people? I bet that you’ve ignored a few which didn’t seem relevant. (Read Sending an Email to Multiple Recipients With Cc And Bcc) If you are writing an email which needs a response, make sure to address your requests clearly to each person by name. This will let them know that they need to respond, even if they still need to ask for clarification. This can prevent you waiting endlessly for a response that is never likely to come.

Every day, 205 billion emails are sent. That’s a lot of opportunities for emails to be misinterpreted. Avoid miscommunication over email by carefully wording your sentences and re-reading for tone.

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