May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As head of school, I would have my assistant head of school read sensitive emails that I was planning on sending.

As time went on, I would stop sending such emails entirely, and insist on face-to-face meetings.

That’s because we do a terrible job of accurately reading intent when it comes to things like email.

We lose sight of tonality. We lose sight of intent.

A study by Professors Justin Kruger of New York University and Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago sought to determine how well sarcasm is detected in electronic messages. The results of their study was that not only do email senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but recipients also overrate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.

And it’s also easy to be sharper and less sensitive than when communicating in person.

Which is why it’s a shame that some people, especially people who are afraid to communicate face to face, will often hide behind electronic communication.

This is almost never the best way to share information, particularly sensitive or corrective messages.

When communicating, ask yourself: “Am I using this because it’s the best or am I using it because it’s the most convenient or am I using it because it’s the most protective (of me)?”

Convenient = it’s the fastest, most “efficient.”

But that’s often the wrong way to look at it.

Because “penny wise, pound foolish” applies to time and relationships as well.

Don’t just think about what will get the message out fastest.

Think about the long-term relationship as well and the possibility of misunderstanding or perhaps even worse.

You may think that you’ll save yourself time only to then spend 10 times that amount of time going back and fixing the mess you made for yourself.

If you have any suspicion of what you want to communicate that is possibly hurtful, vindictive, whatever, I would definitely try to have a conversation.

Because once you’re looking at someone or actually face-to-face, automatically that calms us down.

And it also checks our wording and attitude much better than a computer screen ever will.

What are your best practices to ensure that you don’t use email incorrectly?

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching and Consulting ( He can be reached at 212.470.6139 or at [email protected].

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