Wick Communications

Reply all, cc and smile!

In Communication on 27 Feb 2014 at 4:10 pm


Ah, the emoticon. That smiling sucker didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Now he’s everywhere, sort of like salmonella and STDs. Of course, I myself spread him around all the time, coupling the unblinking eyes of a colon with the gentle grin of the parenthesis. (Parenthetically, I might also add that I use the frown-y face as well.)

Why would a grown man put a smiley face on his written correspondence? Because email is tone deaf, that’s why.

I recently read a fascinating chapter on email in the book, “Quick and Nimble,” by New York Times columnist Adam Bryant. The book is a collection of leadership tips offered by dozens of chief executives from some of the world’s top companies. It turns out many of them hate email. The executives complain about “reply all” dragging everyone into arcane discussions. They say “cc” has a way of splitting recipients along team lines. And there is wide agreement that it is difficult to convey the proper tone over email.

Hence my smiley face. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m saying. I mean this in the best possible way, my smiley face suggests.

Look, stop laughing at me. I agree it is a silly and not terribly effective substitute for actual conversation. Email is great for a memo you want to get on record or a short communiqué. But it is a terrible way to go back and forth with your reader. And as a vehicle for disagreement, forgetaboutit! It’s much quicker to call or better yet speak in person. In that way you can hear the tone and judge the reaction and manage your own response in a way that doesn’t raise the hackles of your audience and continue on ad nauseam. …

I always try to be polite and perhaps overly solicitous over email. I am mindful that the reader might not know if I’m kidding or even if I’m really angry.

Because you have all been using email for years, you know all this stuff already. But I bet you get a dozen or more emails today that are vexing for one reason or another. Perhaps it won’t hurt to remind that email is not a perfect form of communication.



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