Why is a picture worth a thousand words? Or similarly why is a video worth a thousand pictures?
It’s the details. In psychology 101 we learned that nonverbal communication can often convey 90% of meaning. I know, I know, emojis are getting better and better (and they do help), but where in an email can you really ascertain tone of voice, energy level, conviction, emotion, or even whether someone is joking or not? How many times do you have to reread an important email to try to evaluate these things, judging the writer’s use of an individual word even as simple as “Dear” Scott versus just Scott. Do they address all her letters with “Dear” or I am especially dear to them? Depending on the day, and what else is going on, it could be interpreted either way.
And there’s more. For some personality types, the specific words matter a lot, for others, not much at all. And let’s face it, some are more articulate than others. Aside: Did you know some Canadian Inuit’s have more than 50 different words for our one word, snow. Each of them paints a clearer picture so others know if they were dealing with “matsaaruti” (wet snow that can be used to ice a sleigh’s runners) or “pukak” (crystalline powder snow that looks like salt). Hey, this is important stuff if you hunt to survive.
Email is, however, a wonderful tool for simple stuff like scheduling, imparting the same information to a large group of people quickly and a myriad of other quick uses. But certainly pick up the phone and call instead of sending a howler. You can still write it out if it’s important to clarify your thoughts, but talk to them and adjust as you go based on the other person’s reactions. Also, definitely call when the topic is confusing – it avoids tedious email chains where mistakes abound. Single words are easily clarified when talking over the phone so the confusion of misinterpretation is much less likely.
Finally, if you are a millennial or gen z, try and discern when a phone call would be better. You are the masters of texting and digital communication but often fall prey to the problems of those same formats. Instead of a digital back and forth throughout the day, why not make a quick three-minute phone call and talk it out!