Email is great, let me just say that right at the front. No wait, that's not right. Email is fantastic! After computers and the internet, email has got to be one of the biggest contributors to progress, growth of our civilization, and, of course, the high availability of wang enhancement drugs.
Email has a limit though: it's all words. The words themselves in black and white are not the problem. It's that words form sentences, representatives of our thoughts and what we say aloud. In short, words in print are lifeless, but we've compensated for this over the years. We read the meaning through context—we read between the lines.
Words said aloud though are a different story. For us humans, communication is made up of body language, tone, facial expressions, and what we actually say. And even on the phone, we can "hear" a smile, or feel someone's sadness even though they're "just fine."
The point comes from an article I read on BNet.com about skipping email for sensitive issues, and using it just for facts and other things that can't be misconstrued. If you have to convey sensitive or emotional information, it's best to look the other person in the eye.
But the beauty of email is it can go anywhere in the world fast. Well, so can you. Fire up a video conference if you realize an email about to be sent might be misconstrued. Once they can hear you and see you, the message can be conveyed with clarity.
Have you used video conferencing before to make your point clear? Have you got any stories about emailed misunderstandings—that you can safely tell? Leave us a comment.