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09/08/03 The Curse Of E-Mail

“Give me your e-mail address,” I said recently to an executive. He said he didn’t have one. My first reaction was that he was a Neanderthal. After all, I couldn’t live without my e-mail. Could you?

Why am I talking about e-mail? Because the people of Radio should be its masters, that’s why. We should rule it; it should not rule us. We’re word people, are we not? And what is e-mail but words without vocal inflection?

Ah, the importance of vocal inflection.

Not long ago, two of my employees got into a battle because of a “curt” e-mail that one sent the other. When I reluctantly became involved, I learned that the sender was not being “curt,” but his e-mail was read as sounding angry because it lacked flowery language, and there was no tone of voice or vocal inflection to indicate otherwise. That happens a lot.

Another problem with e-mail is that we rely on it too much. Because of e-mail, I don’t feel as “connected” with my friends, employees and business associates as I used to. I may actually be interacting with them MORE via e-mail, but I’ve lost the stuff I used to learn by just talking to someone. I could pick up clues of a problem from their tones of voice or find unforeseen opportunities as a result of careful listening and probing. You can’t do any of this via e-mail.

E-mail has become the ultimate excuse for lazy salespeople. The ones with call reluctance can make a call without actually making one: “I sent her an e-mail!” Frankly, I think the art of selling by e-mail is extremely difficult. I’m encouraging my people to spend less time e-mailing and more time talking to their clients voice to voice. I believe that salespeople in America are hurting themselves by using e-mail too much.

E-mail is a major part of my life today, as it is for most people in business. I feel I couldn’t do without it. Yet on most days, I spend nearly an hour clearing out the spam that my e-mail filters didn’t catch. After taking off a few days recently, I returned to find more than 1,000 e-mails swamping my in-box. I still haven’t gotten that mess cleared up, even though I’ve been home a full week.

Do you find yourself slipping over to your computer at all hours of the day and night, just to check your e-mail? It’s addicting. Call me insane, but I think it’s healthy to not check your e-mail from home. As long as you keep checking your e-mail, you’re still at work. Think about it.

The downside of this policy is that I recently showed up for a meeting that had been cancelled two hours earlier — by e-mail. The person assumed that because he was in front of his screen all day and had e-mail on his Blackberry, I would be easily reached by e-mail, too. An old-fashioned phone call would have saved me a trip and a lot of time. Are you relying on e-mail too much and assuming that others have it because you do? Here’s a new e-mail rule for you: “If you don’t get an answer, pick up the phone.”

Now that I think about it, maybe my executive friend wasn’t such a Neanderthal after all.



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