When the Conversation Gets Complex, End the Emails and Converse Directly
It started as a simple miscommunication…
...and then it became a train wreck with hurt feelings and big problems to solve.
That’s what happened in my friend’s company when one of his employees raised an issue in an email.
The issue wasn’t a big deal. But email has a way of turning small things into big things.
Recipients misunderstood the sender’s point. They reacted to the tone, not the facts. They cc’d others. Assumptions piled on top of assumptions. People read between the lines. Emotion trumped logic.
My friend, the business owner, was cc’d after the emotional fire was burning out of control.
Now he was spending precious time fighting a fire that could have been avoided in the first place.
End the Email and Converse Directly Before the Fire Starts
We all get emails that make us wonder.
“I’m not sure what they’re getting at,” we think. “Is there a problem I didn’t know about? Are they upset about something? What’s going on here?”
When we see a potential problem smoldering, END the email conversation and pick up the phone. Schedule a zoom. If you’re back in the office, schedule a face-to-face.
Sure, that seems more time-consuming than email. But, really it’s not. It takes a bit more time to converse in person than to send an email. But it’s worth the investment.
Human-to-human conversation works better than email, especially when the stakes are high. You can look into the other person’s eyes. You catch the nuance. You have fewer misunderstandings. You reach resolution quicker with less discord.
Here are Five Tips to Converse Effectively
- Ask good questions. If you’re unsure, ask. Don’t assume. Questions clarify. Assumptions distort.
- Listen intently. Your goal: Hear the other person and understand where they’re coming from. When you do this, they’re more likely to do the same. That’s the recipe for mutual understanding and progress.
- Find common ground. You may not agree on everything, but you’ll agree on some things. Start there. When you focus first on points of agreement, you establish rapport and trust. You’re better able to resolve the points on which you disagree.
- Document your conversation by email. Once you part ways, reconnect by email. Summarize the conversation, including open questions and next steps.
- Schedule a follow-up. Plan to reconnect later to make sure all is on track and agreed-upon action has occurred. This last point is critical. So many conversations end without a plan to reconnect. Then action fizzles. One or more of the parties grows frustrated that the conversation was “all for nothing.” Then the cycle of misunderstanding rekindles.
Remember, email is a great time-saver. But if the conversation begins to get difficult, confusing, or emotional, end the email string and go human-to-human.
Want to discover strategies and tactics to improve teamwork and communication…
...so your employees work well together and focus on progress, not drama?
Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session with Cheryl Lauer. You and Cheryl can discuss your challenges and goals, and she can offer actionable advice to help you.