E-Mail Is Not a Conversation

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy

E-mail is not a conversation. I have to remind myself of that from time to time.

When I am deadlocked with someone and tempted to send one more e-mail to clarify or I find myself getting angrier I have to remember to take a five minute walk around the building and pick up the phone.

When a team member or a client does not seem to understand, much less agree, with something that seems obvious and immediately necessary I have to remember that a third reply to the same thread probably won’t clarify the situation. I need to pick up the phone, put on my skype headset, or ask them for a face to face meeting.

I mentioned this passage by Soren Kierkegaard in “Kierkegaard on the Art of Helping Others to Understand” it’s good advice for preparing for a difficult conversation.

The helper must first humble himself under the person he wants to help and thereby understand that to help is not to dominate but to serve, that to help is a not to be the most dominating but the most patient, that to help is a willingness for the time being to put up with being in the wrong and not understanding what the other understands.

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