“Bob, if you will read my response six emails down, you will see we are already
aware of that solution. It is not working…”
I leaned back and rested my head against the wall. I needed to take a mental break from this email before I started imitating a wildfire and flaming Bob for his idiocy. Why did they have to make it so difficult? Trying to get my bearings I started to scroll back through the email chain. I gave up after the tenth page down.
This was hopeless, no one was listening to anyone and Bob was sitting at the middle of this like some big land mine that was keeping anything from moving for fear it would all blow up. I’d exhausted myself trying to sort this all out. I didn’t have a clue how to finish this email and I didn’t think any email would solve this anyway..
The worst part of this all is I knew it was a simple understanding. I just couldn’t get through to Bob. He didn’t seem to be even reading the emails anymore, just kept responding with the same dogmatic hash over and over.
What was I going to do?
Hogarth dangled my Android in front of my face, “Have you tried this?”
I should know better to ask rhetorical questions to the myself. The problem with having an imaginary gorilla is they can eavesdrop on your thoughts. Turning to take in the lumbering form of my gorilla I shook my head. “Hogarth, don’t be ridiculous, I can’t send a text, I need way more than a couple hundred characters to get my point across.”
Hogarth nodded in that annoying manner that usually meant he was about to zing me hard. “You’re right. It will take a lot more character to solve this problem.” He waggled the device at me again, “You know this thing here has an incredible power? One that can cut through all the emails and all the miscommunication and get you to a solution in just a few short minutes.”
I sat up, “Seriously? What’s this App called?”
“A phone call…”
Huh? A phone… oh, ouch.
DID YOU KNOW A SMART PHONE CAN ALSO MAKE PHONE CALLS?
I’m half afraid the next generation of iPhone will have the revolutionary new feature of doing away with that pesky telephone. I mean why does it need to be there anyway? You can send email, send texts, post to Facebook and Twitter, and even log into your companies portal to post to the internal sites. Why on earth would you need to make a phone call?
Maybe because they work so very well? Of course face to face is even better. The phone is a good substitute, email should be the last resort of the desperate.
Now the exact numbers of course vary on this. Still, if you Google “percentage of communication is nonverbal” you will get a mess of hits that put non-verbal communication at a minimum of 60% and up to 93%. And then whatever percentage is left over gets cut down significantly by your tone of voice. By the time you get to only the words you say, it can be as little as 7% of your total communication.
So when you are in an email conversation, up to 93% of your communication is lost? Makes me think of that old kid’s game called telephone. You know the one, the kids all sit in a circle, the first one whispers to the kid on his left and then the message gets passed around until it comes back to the start. “My cat has fleas” could easily turn into “Hapsburgs flee from the Martians.”
Now I’m not saying we should toss out our Exchange servers and go back to the 1970’s. If we did nothing else, we’d only be replacing electronic emails with the old fashioned memo. That’s not the problem. The problem is what we are using the email for.
Email is great for things like status reports, assigning tasks to directs or team members, communicating already decided changes or policy on a one to many basis.
Emails are horrible for solving problems, carrying on a conversation, dealing with anything that requires more than the cold hard facts that can be properly communicated in email. If there is one iota of emotion involved in the communication, then email is not the ideal medium.
Sure, there are times when email is the only option. These times are however vanishingly small. Even leaving a voicemail can often be more effective than an email.
Now diligent readers will point out that this is counter to how some DISC profiles work, as I discussed in “Talk to the Gorilla, Not At It.” True, there are DISC profiles that cringe at the thought of talking on the phone or face to face. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best solution. It just means you have to be careful about it. You don’t just call a High C unannounced, you use email to schedule a time to talk instead.
Let’s go back to the math for a minute. If non-verbal is truly 93% of communication, does that mean if we only ever do email we can take a 93% pay cut?
The phone won’t bite you and it may very well help you tame those monster email threads so you have something approaching a sane mailbox.
Ring… It’s for you.