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The Evil of Emails. Saturday September 20, 2014

Oh, there has been a sad falling out my family; a deep and painful rift between two people who have loved each other and been very close for more than forty years.

Now, I'm not going to give details because it wouldn't be fair; and thank goodness that rift is on a fair way to being mended, but there is a very definite culprit here: the email.

There is a formality to writing a letter which leads to a more measured expression of our sentiments. With a telephone call, there is the tone of voice to add expression to our words. In face to face communication we have body language and eye contact as well; all of which help the communication process.

But we tend to just dash off that email and push the send button without properly thinking through how it might be taken by the recipient.

So when there is a lack of sensitivity on one side and an excess of sensibility on the other, it's a recipe for misunderstanding, hurt feelings and a decision never to talk to the other person ever again (or at least until next Thursday week, anyway!)

I'm sure we have all heard (and possibly used) the expression "Sticks and Stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me!" And most of us would admit that it's not true, because words can hurt far more deeply than physical wounds.

The email can be a pretty blunt instrument.

So my encouragement is to pick up that phone whenever possible and actually make voice contact. If you work in an office with someone, why not walk over to their desk? If you want to send a thank you note, then write a card and expend some pennies on an actual stamp, so that the card will be delivered by a uniformed servant of the Queen: it will mean so much more.

And seeing an actual smile on someone's face is worth a thousand smilies. ☺

A Moodscope member.

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Di Murphey Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 3:42am

Dearest Mary ~
Emails dashed off have caused some pretty serious pain within my own circle of loved ones. Because of this, your description of your family's experience is particularly meaningful to me.

Further, if it is a group email there is the public shame factor. This really stacks the deck with regard to recovering some sense of regard and positivity. It is so difficult and hard to watch people we love struggle in this way.

Not too many years ago, in psychology classes, I was taught a rough rule to use with nonverbals (which you point out do not exist with email). Fifty-five percent of communication is body language; 38% is tone of voice; and approximately 7% is the actual words used.

Given this, even roughly sketched, means it is imperative for us to take great care in what we write. And as you point out, it means so much more to imagine the smiles we might bring. The kind and thoughtful words of your post bring me smiles. Thank you.
Di Murphey

Anonymous Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 6:36am

I too had a sad falling out recently too due to something I wrote that hurt. I tried to express my profound apology and regret by phone but the other party simply cut me off everytime.I then texted and emailed.So by all means use the phone for the reasons Mary so eloquently states but what if the injured party refuses to pick the phone?

Lex McKee Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 9:14am

Great points, Mary, Anon and Di
There are 'energy' levels to different forms of communication. I don't mean in some kind of spiritual way, just the power of impact.
An email or text has the pseudo thrill of speed but they are not really energetic.
A hand-written card allows those 'packets of emotions and association' we call 'words' to have a great environment to be shared in.
The phone adds the dynamics of tone, speed, pitch... and the delight (or otherwise) of feedback and interaction.
But face-to-face brings the eyes... the windows of the soul.
Eye contact is the bridge across forever.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 9:15am

Ah, bless you Di. And you are absolutely right with the psychology of communication: I am an Image Consultant, and I start most of my public talks with this information!

Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 9:23am

Hello Anonymous, I feel for you. To have unintentionally have hurt someone and then have that person not allow you to apologise is painful in the extreme. There remain three options: the "I'm sorry" card sent in the post, the personal approach (with flowers and chocolates if necessary) or an emissary who knows and loves you both (that's what it took in my family's case) and who can intercede for you. I hope very much that your hurt relationship can be restored. If the other person still refuses to forgive you, then let it be, give them time and leave your door wide open for them; making it clear from time to time that it is still open and that the welcome mat is out, the kettle is on and a warm hug awaits. Then, just get on with your life and let them deal with the issues that are preventing them (at the moment) from forgiving you. All the best, Mary

heather Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 10:50am

I was awake last night greatly hurt by a text message from an old friend. I think text messages are possibly even colder than emails. Even phone calls can be misinterpreted and letters and cards are lovely to receive BUT NOTHING can replace eye to eye contact, a warm hug and a shared smile of delight and some time together. I know this is not always possible, but it is VERY evident that we now progressively live in a world of mobile phones, texts and emails. How many people have not sat in a train carriage where practically everyone is eyes down looking at their mobile phone. I can't help wondering where all this is leading,will we eventually be able to contact each other purely by telepathy ? Love from Heather xx

Mary Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 11:13am

Hello Heather, How very right you and Lex are about the importance of eye contact. I love Lex's words "Eye Contact is the bridge across forever" - just beautiful.

Tim Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 1:37pm

Yes, eye contact. How interesting that a UK judge recently ruled that the jury must be able to see the witness's eyes as part of assessing if they were telling the whole truth. They are the most meaning-full expression equipment we've got; face-without-eyes is a hackneyed but true horror-story icon (Dr Who, Stephen Moffatt's modern fairytale "The Empty Child", and others, to pick from the top of my head). When you do make, and break, eye-contact, during conversation or driving (as I'm an instructor, and very keen on the psychology of interactions on the road) is key to emphasizing or detracting from what else's going on at that moment: words, body-language. As with a carefully timed momentary touch, a memorable impact is almost assured. Another phrase sparked off by other blog comments is "Twitter is to Facebook, as text is to email". Why does the Beeb, of all instiututions, risk giving prominence to what strikes me as such a flaky, road-ragey kind of medium. That said, a good journalist should be able to tell a whole story, quite reasonable, in under 160 characters!

Anonymous Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 2:40pm

Mary, your response has helped me accept a bit better a situation I have been in for over a year with my siblings. In brief, my brother sent a series of nasty e-mails, culminating in a "you will get no further information from me" threat which he has maintained to this day. The information , shared between the family members up until that point, was about my elderly parents and their failing health.My own husband had been diagnosed with a life-changi g genetic illness about 3 months before so I was dealing with fortnightly visits to our "local" hospital(an hour away) and the inevitable after effects. I have explained all this to my siblings but they have shown little, if any, empathy.
(My parents live almost 200 miles away, so popping in has never been an option).I have tried phoning my brother-it goes straight to voicemail- and turned up at his house with gifts, only to have him ignore me. At a family party in May, he ignored me again.He has also turned my other brother against me as he is basically scared to oppose him. I feel scapegoated as, deep down, I think they cannot cope with my parents in decline.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 3:42pm

A difficult furrow to plough indeed. My deepest sympathies and respect for you in your situation.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 3:47pm

Ah ha: a Challenge! Moodscope tweets will be next. Let me see; today's couldd have been "Emails can hurt; so write, phone, turn up in person. Give a real smile; don't just send a smilie!" There, less than 100 characters. Howzat?

heather Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 7:57pm

Pure romance !

Caroline Ashcroft Sat, Sep 20th 2014 @ 9:05pm

Hey, Mary, we don't miss a trick, we tweet every day - today's was 'The evil of emails'. Like your suggestion much better. Fancy being our Twitter monitor?!


Anonymous Mon, Sep 22nd 2014 @ 12:03am

Thank you Mary, I will add text messages to that, and also angry phone calls.

I have had a very MENTAL year, full of ups and downs and high emotions. This has led to some confrontations.

I made an unintentional mistake which triggered an explosion in my sister in law, she rang me when she was angry and she said things she should not have said. Fortunately I have a very good friend who is an excellent and qualified counsellor, she helped me 'self heal'. [ I was upset because I apologised to my sister-in-law but she did not apologise for blasting me out when she was angry.]

I got upset with my parents and fired off a text in my anger. the text was not as bad as it could have been but it had some very pointed questions. I ended up apologising and sending flowers when I still feel I was wronged in the first place. I have learnt not deal with issues when my emotions are running sky high.

I have also sent off some emails to our NEW parish priest regarding some issues. He ignored them. Probably the best thing.

It is hard when I feel I express myself much better in writing than in face to face situations. I think the key for me is to 'write it all out' and then when I feel up to it, discuss it with the people involved, with maybe some notes to remind me of the points I feel I need to get across.

I am also learning to 'let things lie' to figure out the core feeling of what I am upset about ? rejection? unworthiness? resentment?

I always enjoy your blogs Mary.


Anonymous Mon, Sep 22nd 2014 @ 9:30am

A friend and I have been communicationg for over 20 year by letter. Nether of us would dream of sending and e-mail and we only speak on the phone to confirm deatails of meeting up which have a deadline. The joy of sitting down to a letter, opening when you are 'prepared' with a coffee and some time, glorious

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