E-mail makes it so much easier to boldly accuse or jump to incorrect conclusions. With all the sites that I manage, unfortunately, I have had the experience of receiving e-mails containing comments or claims that I know the very same folks would not say to my face. I’ve also had times where my initial impression of an e-mail is different if I take a break and re-read it later.
Being behind these screens makes it so much easier to type what may not be true or nice. You don’t have that eye contact or person sitting in front of you to then have to deal with their reaction. Because of that you may find that you over react or read things into a communication that aren’t there because of this.
Almost everyone reading this post can admit to at some time mistakenly reading into an e-mail what was not there. Especially with business e-mail communications, responding with accusations or assumptions can have a negative impact on your reputation and perception of professionalism.
Jumping to conclusions combined with the ease of typing things you wouldn’t normally say if face-to-face, the ability to Cc: the boss or BCc: coworkers with just a click, is the typical just because you can doesn’t mean you do scenario. The onus is on each of us to make sure that our intent and tone are crystal clear to minimize any room for incorrect assumptions to be made (and that you don’t make assumptions as well).
With business e-mail communications, every e-mail you send with your business e-mail address will reflect on you and your business. Even if justified in a complaint, how you complain can make all the difference in the world. Are you unreasonable and rude? Or do you have a point that requires further action?
Do you get impatient when you don’t receive a reply when you think you should? There are so many things going on in the background that the majority of e-mailers are not aware of that can cause delayed e-mails or lack of response. What if your contact is in a hurry and types off a quick response that you then perceive as terse and vague. Because you perceive an attitude or because a response is not happening as quickly or the way you desire, doesn’t necessarily make it so.
While you are assuming, why not also assume that you do not know all the details or criteria that could be affecting a situation and ask for an explanation in a kind and courteous way?
If I don’t receive responses to my inquiries, I don’t assume negative reasons why or send accusations or “eTattle” to the higher-ups, rather I send a kind follow up confirming if the original request was received and/or if everything on the other side is okay.
If an e-mail is terse or rude, I respond back with the courtesy not offered to me to set an example of how professionals communicate with e-mail.
Jumping to conclusions many times only serves to expose your lack of knowledge, understanding or ability to act as a true professional in any given situation.