We all know that email is convenient and comfortable. Many of us do our shopping, and even our banking online. So what’s wrong with a simple emailed conversation? Well, nothing—unless it is a difficult conversation. When one person is upset with someone else, email is suddenly the least favourable method of communication. This is especially important in the business context, where co-workers can grow accustomed to emailing each other to communicate, instead of having meetings or phone conversations.
Here are a handful of reasons why you should always strive to have a difficult conversation in person, and not via email:
1. Reduce Room for Interpretation: A large part of our communication as human beings is done through facial expression and body language. When we email instead of speaking to each other, we cannot convey sincerity, humour, and openness in the same way that we can when speaking face-to-face. This is especially true in conflicts, where the recipient of an email is usually reading it through a lens of anger or distrust. In these situations, sincerity and kindness can be read as sarcasm, and the problem will only get worse.
2. Don’t Allow the Issue Time to Fester: When you receive an email, there is no timer ticking as to when you have to respond. Time can be like gasoline on a flame for a simple conflict. Email allows parties to carefully craft their responses, which seems as though it would be helpful in conflict resolution; however, in most situations, time only lets the parties think of reasons why they should not budge in their position. Instead of resolving their differences, the parties become more entrenched in the conflict.
3. Restrict the Issue to the Parties at Hand: Face-to-face conversation between two adults is the best way of keeping focused on the issue, and not allowing any other parties to be involved. When two individuals are having a disagreement, there are often third parties that become involved to encourage the conflict, give advice, or gossip. When you have a sit-down conversation with someone, you are able to limit the influence that other parties can have on your conflict resolution process.
4. Allow for the Airing of Grievances: Sometimes, someone who is upset simply wants the opportunity to explain what they are feeling or why they are angry. Trying to resolve a conflict through email can sometimes make the other person feel as though they are not worth your time, which will further exacerbate the problem. Face-to-face meetings allow you to listen to what the other person has to say and to show that you are willing to work out a solution to your problems.
If you would like to learn more about having difficult conversations and managing conflict in the workplace, contact Stitt Feld Handy Group to ask about our comprehensive conflict resolution training programs for businesses and individuals.