Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wisdom for Email

Today in our staff meeting our executive pastor asked us to come up with a collective list of rules to generally follow when dealing with email. Here is the list we came up with followed by some comments from me:

1. Don't confront people over email.

Non-verbal communication is too important in confrontation and tone cannot be interpreted well over email. Ask yourself if you are wanting to confront over email because you are being cowardly and have a sinful bent toward the fear of man. One push back on this principle is that when writing an email you can collect your thoughts in a cohesive way for better communication. I would say if you feel this way, write your thoughts on a pad of paper with bullet points and bring it to your confrontation appointment.

2. Use email to work on your grammar.

Text speak (lol, c ya, etc.) can merge into our email, email can merge into our more formal writing. Don't believe this? Ask my wife, she teaches graduate school and can testify to this fact. Scary, I know.

3. Work to have a balance between email and personal contact.

I am bad at this. I have found that I would rather sit in my office and fire off a quick email to the guy in the office next door as opposed to just popping over and saying something quickly. I know it feels efficient in the short term, but I wonder about the long term effects. If we are not careful we breed a culture of isolation that is detrimental to our essential nature of God's image bearers, created for communities of love.

4. Be professional over email.

Granted, for most of us email is not a professional medium of communication, but why not raise the bar?

5. Use subject lines.

Again, I am bad at this but working on it. It's much easier to find old emails this way, for you and the one who receives. It also helps emails not get pushed to spam folders and gives your reader a sense of your intentions right off the bat.

6. Don't multi-task too much with email.

I have been burned bad in the past by having too many emails flying around with different windows open and hitting reply when I should have hit forward. What a horrible feeling! It's like you want to scratch and claw your way into the computer after hitting send to pull that one back out. Sadly, you can't. I did this one time in college when I was wanting to forward something to JT about our religion professor, but rather sent it to the religion professor himself. The email was less than kind. The next day in class he was a good sport about it and thought it was funny, but made fun of me in front of the whole class. Mortifying.

7. Don't email your spouse a love letter, or better yet, anything to anybody that is emotionally meaningful.

Use your own handwriting. It's way more personal.

8. Hesitate before you hit reply all.

Do they all really need to receive your reply?

9. Don't forward cheesy emails with winged angels and dancing bears.


10. Learn people's style.

Some people just don't like email. Serve them by not trying to force them into your style and then being angry when they don't reply to your email. Call or go and see them. This is most loving. Also, don't be offended when you write a four paragraph book email and they only reply with two sentences. They might not have had time to reciprocate with equivalent size and would rather just talk on the phone.

11. Use blind copy (BCC:) when sending to a large group.

If you don't you could expose people to spam from insensitive spammers who like to collect email addresses to add people to random lists.


Scott Sterner said...

I've been praying that the Lord would convict you regarding these email rules for a long time. My prayer has been answered.... One that might be missing is don't check email while having a meeting with someone else. This is also a big, but necessary growth step for you Zach.

Joanna said...

A lot of these also apply to other tools like facebook. Living in a college dorm it gets used a lot but i'm trying hard to not use it to talk to someone who is in the same building to me instead get up and go talk to them face to face.