Email and constructive communication

I was once part of a heated email chain a couple of years back. As with most heated email chains, this began with a misunderstanding which was only amplified with time. I was the junior-most member of the team and was more the by-stander who was being called on from time to time to produce one number or another.

At one point, our senior-most team member sent an email to a couple of us on one side of the argument that read something like this – STOP REPLYING TO THE EMAIL CHAIN. WE WILL TAKE THIS OFFLINE AND SORT THIS OUT.

He immediately set up some time with each of us, listened to us, focused on the next steps and  methodically worked his way through the issues. And sort it out we did.

Emails are good for a whole lot of things – sharing status updates, ensuring information is shared, asking questions and engaging in discussions, and setting up real life conversations. They are, however, not good for any communication that isn’t constructive and almost always make things worse. Deprived of context and facial expressions, we always assume the worst.

The learning for me was simple – the moment you sense an email thread going negative, take it offline. And, as my wise colleague would say, STOP.