Do you “chicken out” with texts or emails? We need more live conversations… …period!
Most of us have seen and even participated in the strings of unproductive emails that lead nowhere. In their wake they have left a carnage of wasted time and bruised egos. This increasing trend to using digital media for conflict resolution is a lousy use of digital tools. These tools are better suited for conversation, clarity, and confirmation but usually NOT for conflict resolution or problem solving. Emailing and texting may be easier and less stressful (initially), but become convenient vehicles of issue and conflict avoidance. Having disagreements and the ability to constructively resolve them are necessary for the progression of any group. We need to embrace the idea of positive conflict, and NOT get slicker at avoiding it, with the right context and medium. And that usually means us talking to each other. Yes, good ole fashioned face to face, “kitchen table” dialogue.
A recent Harvard Business Review blog noted the following difficulties with digital media for conflict resolution and decision making:
- It is hard to get the EQ (emotional intelligence) right in email. The biggest drawback and danger with email is that the tone and context are easy to misread. In a live conversation, how one says something, with modulations and intonations, is as important as what they are saying. With email it is hard to get the feelings behind the words.
- Email and text often promote reactive responses, as opposed to progress and action to move forward. Going back to the zero latency expectation in digital communications, it is hard for people to pause and think about what they should say. One of my colleagues suggests not reacting to any incendiary message until you have at least had a night to sleep on it, and always trying to take the higher ground in email. While by definition reactive responses occur in live discourse, they are usually more productive. The irony is that while email, as an asynchronous channel, has the potential to be more thoughtful, it often promotes the opposite tendency to be immediately reactive. Why? Because the bark is almost always bigger than the bite behind remote digital shields.
- Email prolongs debate. Because of the two reasons above, I have seen too many debates continue well beyond the point of usefulness. Worse, I have experienced situations which start relatively benignly over email, only to escalate because intentions and interests are easily misunderstood online. When I ask people if they have called or asked to meet the counterpart to try and reach a resolution, there is usually a pause, then a sad answer of “no.”
- Develop your own framework for determining when to use email/ text or to have a live conversation. Have the courage to make personal, authentic, live contact. Be timely! Don’t avoid it and let it stew.
- Decide to become a MASTER communicator by consciously building a dialogue tool set. It will be one of the most important things you can do for bettering your personal and professional life. If you cannot describe the communication tools and skills you practice then I think you’re kidding yourself about how effective you are (e.g. the STP tool for listening and problem solving in the “free resources” section of www.lornerubis.com.
- Stop that next unproductive email string, and talk live to your counterpart(s). Keep consciously practicing your “crucial conversation” skills. Embrace the opportunity.
Talking Live and Real in the Triangle,