All too often, colleagues who sit steps from one another can get into an argument over email and drag a whole department into their turf war. The resulting damage control can waste time, waste energy and damage professional relationships, and in the end no one comes away looking good. Instead, just pick up the phone and talk it over, or hash it out in person.
The Harvard Business Review reminds us that if you read an email and feel the urge to respond because you “can’t let that go unchallenged”, it’s usually better to pick up the phone and talk to the person instead of fire off a response. It’s difficult to interpret the intended tone of an email when you read it, and it’s too easy to get riled up and go on the attack in your response when it’s uncalled for. Email tends to prompt reactions from people, drawing out conversations and debates that would take minutes on the phone into hours of distracting back-and-forth messages. Talking to the sender on the phone or in person forces them to actually communicate with you in a way they wouldn’t via email.
When I worked in a more corporate environment, I had a hard time doing this, and my boss often had to remind me to just go talk to or call someone before firing off a scathing response when I was upset over a note they sent. It can be difficult when you think you have to clear the air or set the record straight for anyone who may be CC’d on the message, but you can do that more effectively if you talk to the sender first, get clarity on the issue, and then recap the conversation in your message — civilly, of course.
Have you been known to come down with a case of keyboard bravery, or are you a pick-up-the-phone kind of person? Share your experiences in the comments.
Don’t Send That Email, Pick Up the Phone! [Harvard Business Review]