We hear a lot about the possible negative impact of communication technologies (I don’t know why some people call them “new”) on human relationships. Distension of social bond, isolation…. We will see to it in practice, but I am not more convinced than that. On the other hand, one thing is certain: they transform the way we communicate with others, on form.
The greatest misdeed of email is not the one we think it is
We have been complaining for years about email, its misuse and its negative impact on many things. But I think we will have to live with it for a long time to come, as none of the solutions that are supposed to replace it have succeeded in dethroning it. Yes, so-called “modern” collaboration tools have been massively deployed, but on the other hand their adoption rate is uneven, to say the least, and on the other hand, the volume of sent emails continues to grow.
But that’s not the worst problem.
What dismayed me is the way too many of these emails are written. No polite formula to start or end, a tone at the very least lapidary or sententious…. Even more so in companies, among colleagues than elsewhere.
You may think I’m old-fashioned, but email means electronic mail and so is subject to formal rules, if you want to send two lapidary lines without saying hello or goodbye, there’s another tool called chat.
By the way, why do we get the impression that people are a little more polite in chat than in email? It must be the fact that we are in synchronous communication and that we imagine the person in front of us and that we are a little more careful. Because I am convinced that no one would dare to address a person face to face, in a meeting, as can be done by email. As if we were totally forgetting that there was a human being who would reads the message and feels something as he reads it.
So when reading an email makes your employees feel like they are slapped in the face, don’t be surprised how reluctant they will be to answer it, to deal with the subject. Don’t be surprised that they don’t look very friendly the next time you talk to them, disengage or one day pack their bags because no one likes to get slapped even virtually all day long.
While companies are drafting tons of charters on the use of information technology I have never seen a single paragraph on the rules of form and politeness. Oh yes… in the case of corporate social networks because they are public exchanges. Email being more restricted diffusion we can therefore afford to treat our employees like dogs as long as we are polite and friendly in public.
When vocal assistants create a generation of brazen people
Notice with the latest fashionable technologies there are more and more cases where we don’t talk to humans: when we use a chatbot or a voice assistant.
A very interesting article in Fast Company shows the impact, for example, of Alexa on children. By dint of “Alexa do this” and “Alexa do that” the children no longer make the difference when they address their parents or simply human beings and the imperative name+order form becomes a normal standard… except for those to whom they are talking.
So once again I may look old-fashioned but one of the challenges of digital communication tools is not so much whether they are good or bad and even maybe not even why we use them but simply how we express ourselves. When we talk about violence in companies, often managerial, it would be wrong not to be interested in this subject.
Or we accept that politeness and life skills are not allowed in digital uses.