The Reflection Pool

Giving In to the Temptation of Email

Photo Credit: mbiebusch via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mbiebusch via Compfight cc

This learning thing is hard.  In February 2014, I wrote a post about Learning From My Mistakes. One of the things I talked about was using email for communication and how tricky that can be. It was a good post, honest and true.  If only learning was as easy as writing a blog post!

Like you, I receive a fair bit of email. I also have a bit of an obsession about keeping my inbox clear. (On a side note, sometimes I delete too much. I’ve had to ask a colleague for a certain information email more than once – you’d think I would learn.) In any case, if I’m clearing my email later in the day and know it’s urgent to respond, I can succumb to the temptation of email. I put sensitive information that would be better shared in person or through a phone call.

This past week, I responded to several important emails that way. I tried to be ultra clear in my responses and read over the emails before I sent them. Of course, they lacked the human touch, because email can never convey that.  I went to bed, satisfied that I had dealt with those issues.

But I really hadn’t. Sometime over the course of the night, my brain realized that I had gone against my commitment to better communication. I needed to pick up the phone.

So I did. And I apologized and said I would do better.  Folks graciously accepted my apology and we had a good discussion about the issues. But I wish email wasn’t so seductive.

3 thoughts on “Giving In to the Temptation of Email

  1. Sue, I love your honesty here. I used to run the email system for our school, and as you can imagine, I got hundreds of emails a day. I was always trying to respond quickly to them, and the sometimes I worried that the message could be misinterpreted or that the email lacked the human touch. That’s when I started my new system: I mark everything as unread until I have a chance to deal with it. And I only deal with emails when I have the time to think and proofread them before sending them out. I still make mistakes, and I’ve apologized many times before, but I’ve had to apologize during phone conversations and face-to-face conversations too. The one thing I like about email is that if I know of a problem first, I can take the time to think of a response before acting emotionally. If somebody calls or sees me with a problem, I may respond immediately, when I really need to think first.

    Knowing how many emails I deal with a day, I have no idea how you sort through all of yours. I applaud you for coming up with the system that you did! Thanks for being so open in your posts. You make me think about how I can be even more open too!


  2. Hi Sue, I’ve been reading your blogs for awhile now and they do indeed inspire one to rethink their own views, routines and methods. Thank you for your drive to share, motivate and search. I too feel more comfortable with a phone call or even an in person discussion more so than using an email. It is difficult to portray the voice you want to come through in an email. Last night I made a decision not to email someone for a better in person conversation today. It was much more meaningful and appreciated. I find email helps in a world that moves too quickly for those quick meaningless responses but the conversations that count are the ones that need more effort, that personal touch, the ones that can share a smile, a laugh, a story and visual support. I find I do a lot more drop ins on colleagues, check ins if you will, and our connections, our want to share and support each other are that much stronger.

    I too would read and reread emails and blogs before posting them. At times I would provide more detail to eliminate misinterpretations, and simple thoughts became pages. However, when you’re overwhelmed with emails it’s tempting to send those quick ones just to get them off of your list just so you don’t forget to eventually get to them. I can’t begin to imagine the multi-tasking you must do to keep on top of your tasks each day while balancing your own professional development along with personal life interests and commitments. Quite amazing.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Nick. I really appreciate it. The mindfulness you talk about is so important in all aspects of our job. In our busy lives the temptation can be strong, but as you’ve stated, just another minute of thinking can make a difference.

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