Monday, May 15, 2006

Does this Post Make My Ego Look Big??

"Why Emails Are So Easily Misunderstood," Christian Science Monitor, May 15, 2006, .

This is a really interesting article about communicating over email. Often tone and meaning are completely lost in emails, leading to small and sometimes BIG misunderstandings:

In effect, e-mail cannot adequately convey emotion. A recent study by Profs. Justin Kruger of New York University and Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago focused on how well sarcasm is detected in electronic messages. Their conclusion: Not only do e-mail senders overestimate their ability to communicate feelings, but e-mail recipients also overestimate their ability to correctly decode those feelings.

One reason for this, the business-school professors say, is that people are egocentric. They assume others experience stimuli the same way they do. Also, e-mail lacks body language, tone of voice, and other cues - making it difficult to interpret emotion.

Think about it. How many times have you received an email where you judged the person's tone to be curt? Or you read someone's blog post or had an IM conversation where you are left questioning the person's intent? Personal electronic communication is so, well, impersonal. There is no way to look at the person's face and see the lie. Or hear the slight infection of one's tone as they mockingly describe a night out with a potential suitor. I have personally tried to have less electronic communication and more phone calls. More in person meetings where the subconscious human connection is more able to ascertain a person's disposition. And in turn you can spend less time over analyzing stale, cliche IM conversations and the "OMG what did he/she mean??" factor.

The article makes a very good point about ego playing a part in assuming one knows exactly what an email/post/IM from someone else means. Maybe the sender is hiding their emotions behind an impersonal email? Maybe that person just simply wants to be taken out for coffee and listened to? Is it up to us to assume we know everything from a few lines forever stored in our gmail accounts?


Blogger Complacent Chase said...

Great article.
I know that I have been guilty of misunderstanding someone's intent or feelings from an email or blog.

I guess as a society we aren't connected anymore. We don't visit as much, write letters or call for meaningful conversations.
Nowadays, we send text messages, IMs, quick call on our cell phones and emails. We all do it.
This article is right on.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous MappyB said...

"conversation where you are left questioning the person's intent?"

That is so true, I've done that so many times. Good article.

Oh, and I LOVE my Gmail. :)

10:29 AM  
Blogger O-FACE said...

My ex sent me a E-card for my birthday...WTF...a E-Card???? Totally agree.. Everybody is turning into Hal

3:16 PM  
Blogger VP of Dior said...

chase - you're right in that we all do it. it is definitely an integrated part of our culture and not just a social preference.

mappy - i too love gmail. speaking of i forgot to email you concerning maps! my bad...

O-face - yep you hit it right on the head. Hal 3000 is the perfect description. for the last 2 years i have been obsessed with personal stationary and trying to send paper cards/correspondence for occasions and "just because."

4:42 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

This has always been an issue with me. I did volunteer work for AOL for a few years, and in some roles where I was speaking to people in "real time," I quickly learned the limitations of electronic communications in terms of im's, emails and chat rooms. You cannot pick up on visual and aural nuances that add so much more in your understanding of what is being said.

P.S. One of the hardest things to pick up cues on when online? Teasing. You can get out onto thin ice on that one very easily.

Congrats on your mention in DC Blogs today.

9:56 AM  

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