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Got a Sensitive Issue? Skip the E-mail

I watched an interesting BNET video by Edward Muzio this morning that discussed why e-mail starts fights. The premise: if communication is made up of tone, visual cues, and words, e-mail is a terrible medium for it.

Why? Because words, according to researchers, account for just 7 percent of any overall message. The remainder is tone and visual cues, which just don't come across in e-mail.

I wrote last week that you might not be as funny as you think in e-mail. But aside from humor falling flat, the real danger in using e-mail as a conveyance for your thoughts is that a misinterpretation of your message can lead to big trouble: hurt feelings, frustration, resentment, anger...all things that can damage your working or personal relationships.

What's the remedy? Simple. According to Muzio, you should save e-mail for factual communication only -- setting meetings, conveying data, and so on. When you get into sensitive or emotional context, deal with it in person (your best option) or over the phone.

That's a challenging proposition for a writer like me. I often believe I can say things better on paper than I can in person, so I'm more likely to send a long, well-crafted e-mail to deal with a problem than to pick up the phone. But Muzio's comments have me reconsidering that approach.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section. And take a look at the video to judge for yourself.