Verbal Vs. Email Office Communication
By Beth Bartlett
The digital age has given us so many ways to communicate with each other -- from texts to Skype and about a dozen technologies in between. Both verbal and written communication have their place in business today, and a productive office encourages etiquette in all methods of communication. Using only one or the other stunts an employee’s abilities to communicate effectively with clients, customers and colleagues. While email can showcase your meticulous work record, there’s no emoticon as effective as a real, face-to-face smile when you talk.
There’s a reason why emails are often brought up during government scandals; they show not only what someone said, but when they said it, so when you need a lasting record of communication with someone, email gives you a digital paper trail. In addition, people’s memories of conversations can vary over time, they may not take away important details from a verbal discussion, and it's easier to back up your point in an office situation when you have the digital copy to prove it. If someone deletes your email or insists they never received it, your only record may be your ‘Sent’ folder. Email can also be an effective way of viewing the history of a project and who was the most valuable team asset.
Communication between coworkers involves more than just words. Your colleagues read your expression and your body language, and register the tone of your voice during a conversation. When you’re face to face with someone, you pick up on these cues and they help deepen your understanding of the other person's meaning. Although a well-worded email can be direct and clear, sometimes words on a screen can be misconstrued and cause offense, especially if you attempt sarcasm or humor. It can also take less time to simply walk down the hall or pick up the phone and discuss concerns in detail than it does to compose a lengthy email.
Sometimes it’s just too difficult to discuss certain situations with co-workers, and people often turn to email to express themselves without becoming flustered. You have time to think about what you want to say, and you can convey that message without nervousness or stuttering. You have the time to craft an intelligent reasoned question or comment. That can be a two-way street, however, because some employees find it easier to be snarky, insulting or rude when they communicate through email. When emotions run high, people often send messages using words they would never use in person.
Writing emails may allow coworkers to avoid uncomfortable or difficult conversations but it doesn’t help them learn to address the problem head on. While face to face conversation may feel awkward at times,experience will diminish that feeling. Talking with coworkers makes you more aware of your own non-verbal communication. Talking together creates bonds in the office, and it shows respect to people, whether it’s praise for a job well done or a warning for an unacceptable situation.
Beth Bartlett has been freelance writing for nine years, and her work has appeared in such publications as "Meetings South," "Angels on Earth," "American Profile," and "Mental Floss." She also writes a weekly humor horoscope column for print and the Web.