Communication Skills 101: Email Balls

Penny ZenkerAccountability, Communication & ConflictLeave a Comment

man using laptop and typing an email

Having communication skills in the workplace is a prerequisite. When a friend of mine told me about this back and forth email conversation, I thought I should share this to make a point.

He told me he texted her that he was going to work from home today. she texted back “The team is being audited now because of the low number of reviews that are getting done per week. You are not in the office enough.”

“She texted you that?” I said

He said “yeah, and I know that she was telling me this because I’m not getting all my reviews done by the end of the week. I was pissed”, he said with emotion rising in his voice “So I texted back that I was promised, I would have fewer clients a week so fewer client reviews per week.”

“Do you think that was bad? I couldn’t help myself,” he said knowingly.

And so it began the back-and-forth. One text triggering the next.

Have you had these texts with your boss or a friend?

I know I have had people say some pretty crazy things over a text message. People break up and are fired over text messages. What happened to having important conversations face to face or at least over the phone? Am I old-fashioned?

My friend’s conversation with his boss was not a healthy texting situation. This is the wrong venue and place for such a discussion.

It happens all the time though. People have discussions via email and text that they should be having face-to-face.

It’s amazing what people will say in a text or email but they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. in the urban dictionary, this is called email balls. I guess they feel powerful just saying whatever is on their mind without a filter. The diplomacy we would normally use while interacting with someone face-to-face should be the same in any and all forms of communication. 

Teenagers just get downright mean. They post pictures they know are incriminating and send them to everyone. What makes someone think that it’s ok? As adults, we experience the same thing but with a different twist.

5 Tips to avoid unnecessary conflict and manage your time and energy:

1. Avoid Email balls

man using laptop and typing an emailNever text or email anything you wouldn’t say face to face to someone.

The challenge with text and email communication is that many people feel more gutsy to say what they feel in the moment or fail to filter their response especially text because it is typically so spontaneous and impulsive. This can be very dangerous not only because of what you have said but it is in print.  Without tone, a text can be interpreted in various ways outside of your control, so you have to think twice about what you write.

Make it a practice to review your emails.

2. Manage your boiling point

Stop any email or text that triggers something in you and ask the person to meet in person to discuss. Don’t be a victim and simply react to their message. That is just feeding the fire and nothing good will come of the conversation. You can’t take it back and email or text, it is forever out there in cyberspace. Don’t do that to yourself or the other person. Stop that email or text cold and everyone saves face in the long run.

Another way to manage your boiling point is not to assume a tone or meaning. You can always ask someone what did you mean by that? For all you know Siri auto-corrected it to something worse than they intended or they just didn’t mean it with the same tone you may have initially reacted to it. “What do you mean? I don’t understand? Can you please clarify? These are easy statements to get you curious versus ready for crucifixion.

3. Words Matter

Pay attention to your language. The words you use often have presuppositions hidden within them that may be even unconscious to you or be interpreted differently than you intend. For example, the communication above is passing the blame of not getting the reviews done to the fact that they were promised and the pre-suppositions is that the promise was not met. The word promise is also a strong work used to show there is a deep disappointment.

4. Re-read your texts before sending

Do yourself a favor and re-read your texts before you send them. Read it out loud. It sounds different and you will know if it really isn’t appropriate for a text message.

Who is responsible for stopping the conversation before it gets out of hand? Yours. It is energy management at its best. These conversations can create so much negative energy and take your mind away from other important things to get caught up in these written conversations. Want some great time management tips, stop the assumptions and make the phone call. You will save a ton of time and energy.

5. Don’t accept it from others

If someone is bullying you by text, email, or social media. don’t accept it. Write them back and say this isn’t a conversation for email or text. Confront them to tell you face to face what is going on. If you are in school, tell a teacher or parent and ask for help on how to deal with this.

I have confronted a friend on his pot-shots by text after he was angry with me for something. I recognized he was just writing out of anger and diffused the situation quickly by calling him on his behavior and not judging him for it. I know not everyone can do that but calling someone on it will make them think twice before doing it again..

You weren’t hired by text so don’t allow them to fire you that way. Go back into the office and prepare for a conversation. Even though it may be equally uncomfortable for you, don’t let them off easily. Make it a game, you were already fired so the hard part for you is over. People need to be accountable to their behavior, You aren’t just doing this for you, but all the others that follow you that will be affected if you don’t stand up against this in-appropriate behavior.

Keep in mind the golden rule and the law of reciprocity – Treat others as you would wish to be treated. What goes around comes around.

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