"Handling the e-mail is equivalent to managing the objects of a house, and can exhibit character traits, that is, what one sees". María Marta Depalma, psychoanalyst and teacher.
- 1 Email as a new communication model
- 2 Our words define us
- 3 It's not just what you say, but how you say it
- 4 It is easy for readers to misunderstand the signals
- 5 Trust needs to have chemistry
Email as a new communication model
Currently most of our communications at work are made through the email. We are likely to talk with customers and co-workers by email more often than by phone or through meetings. New technologies have changed the way we express ourselves in many ways in a short time.
But unlike face-to-face communication, it is more difficult to effectively convey important aspects of our personality, attitudes and style in email.
Is there a connection between our self of email and our real-life self? How can a person know our personality through our emails? The answer is found in the following four points:
Our words define us
People use language in different ways, and those differences are a function of our personality. Our decisions are spontaneous and unconscious, but they reflect who we are. Studies on the texts written in the emails have found associations between the keywords and the main aspects of personality. The more frequently people use those words, the more likely it is that certain personality traits are shown.
For example, the extroverts they talk about things related to fun: music, party, drinks, etc. People with sick leave emotional intelligenceThey are more likely to use emotional and negative words: stress, depression, anger and bad luck. The narcissists they speak of themselves, the number of self-referential words (for example, "I", "I", "mine", "myself", etc.), is indicative of one's own love and appreciation of someone. Artistic and intellectual individuals use "wise" words, such as narrative, rhetoric and leitmotiv.
It's not just what you say, but how you say it
There is also great variability in people's communicative style, even when words may not differ much. For example, the absence of errors is a sign of scrupulousness, perfectionism and obsession. Poor grammar reflects lower levels of intellectual quotient and academic intelligence. Emoticons are a sign of friendship (if the email is informal) or immaturity (in work-related emails).
Long emails reflect energy and rigor, but also a certain degree of need and disorganization. Chaotic emails are a sign of creativity or psychopathic tendencies. Instant responses reflect impulsivity and low self-control. Late responses are a sign of selflessness, and no responses indicate passive-aggressive disdain.
It is easy for readers to misunderstand the signals
Even when emails reflect our personality, those who receive them may stop interpreting the signals. This tends to occur for two main reasons: either they are not paying enough attention (focusing instead on what they mean), or they perform a subjective interpretation of things.
It is important to note that the correct interpretations require attention to contextual factors, such as the main motivation of the sender when writing, and the distillation of the noise signal. It is also important to determine if the signals are really related to the personality or mood and behavior of the sender.
The conclusion is that even the most intuitive observer of email behaviors may not work as well as a computer-generated algorithm, especially if they have never had physical interactions with the sender or lack basic information about them. Of course, this does not prevent people from making assessments. We humans are predetermined to perform immediate and unconscious assessments of people, and we tend to ignore information that is not consistent with our initial prejudices, that is why stereotypes are so pervasive, and that in the world by email, too.
Trust needs to have chemistry
Online trust is the backbone of a huge economy: We would not have eBay, Aamazon or Airbnb unless we were open to the idea of trusting strangers, simply based on your fingerprint or Internet reputation. However, relationships with others still require a face-to-face interaction, and probably always will be. That is why our impression of others is rarely the same in a digital medium as in the physical world: even telephone conversations omit key information about the personalities of individuals.
Ultimately, chemistry cannot be translated into data. And unlike computers, human beings are very confident in making decisions based on our intuition, rather than pure and hard data. Perhaps this is the main explanation for the fact that face-to-face meetings are still far from disappearing (even if it is by videoconference). Hence, video technology is very popular, but only because it has replaced telephone conversations, rather than physical meetings.