Arguing by Email

August 7, 2014

I have often said that technology is ruining relationships and, to a large extent, I still believe that. I still think that when you want to break up with your partner, it should be done in person, not sent as a text message.

Same, too, when you want to quit your job and you are in the same geographical location, it should be done in person, not sent as an email or a text message. Of course, it should be followed up with an email so that you have documentation that you gave notice and not left your employer high and dry with no warning.

I have also said that emails can be misinterpreted and that you have a better chance of clearing up a miscommunication in person because you have the benefit of hearing a person’s voice and watching his facial expressions. And, to a large extent, this is still true.

But, what has me rethinking my position on face-to-face communication vs. resolving an argument by email, is that many people don’t think quickly enough on their feet and, even more the case, when an argument is emotionally charged, many people can’t express what they are feeling because the words just can’t get past their throat.

In thinking about some of the conversations I’ve had with my clients, the most compelling reason for having some of these arguments by email is that when you are having an emotionally charged argument, tempers can flare and physical violence can erupt with people who have ungovernable tempers. It’s also easier to shout at each other in person and to throw out accusations that can never be erased in each other’s minds.

There is an added benefit to having these arguments by email in that you can reread what you’ve written and wait until your temper cools, and then reread what you have written a few times to see if you left anything out, and when you’re satisfied with what you’ve written, then you can click on the Send button. You lose that advantage when you’re having a heated argument in person.

Here are the pros and cons: While you gain the immediacy of resolving the argument in person, you are losing the advantage of making sure that you’ve said everything you wanted to say before clicking on the verbal Delete button and the verbal Send button.

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