No email

What is the last thing you learned?

Another fitting prompt today. Is WordPress spying on me? Or do most people just learn very regularly. These prompts are often like horoscopes, they always fit exactly. I suppose. I don’t really read horoscopes, but I remember my mom was into that shit for some time in a far past.

As an early career researcher active in ecology, I learn quite some things at a daily base. Most stuff is rather useless information in terms of personal development, but this week I picked up something else that’s actually useful.

The title says it all. No emails.

I hate meetings. I never know ‘how to be’ in them. Should I talk more? Should I talk less? I hate awkward silences. I’m quite introverted, and that probably strengthens this whole meeting aversion, and the not knowing how to deal with them. Honestly, it has gotten a lot better over the years. About a decade ago, I would physically choke up in meetings from sheer anxiety. Now it’s, well, not that anymore. But still. From my point of view, most meetings should be an email. Many are a waste of time for at least part, if not the majority of the attendees. Some are useful. Some.

I usually rarely call for meetings. I’d rather use time efficiently by just doing things. I am often the one solving problems via email. I’m aggressively on top of my email, and most days my inbox is zero when I leave work. No, not most days. All days. But I also tend to communicate via email a lot. It’s quick, it’s simple. It gives you some sense of grounding. Something to fall back on. I always thought email was the golden solution to every problem.

What email doesn’t have, is tone.

I learned this week that tone can be a tremendous help in terms of driving a conversation. Or rather, the other way around, the lack of tone in email can drive conversations in completely different ways than they were intended.

I learned some of this the hard way this week, with my boss and some collaborators. I think I offended people through a lack of tone in email. I also recognized the escalation too late (maybe also because the answer emails also didn’t have a tone?). What was intended as a normal conversation, led to some ruffled feathers. I only realized it when it was too late. I don’t necessarily mind ruffling feathers if I intend to, but I tend to lose a lot of sleep over the unintentional ruffling of feathers. That’s just the type of person I am. Guilt kills me.

Anyway. All has been resolved now. In a meeting.

I learned that I was wrong about meetings.

Some business, especially more delicate business, is best solved in a meeting.

Tone matters.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

7 thoughts on “No email

  1. I’m also an email person – or any kind of written message over a meeting or phone call. At my previous job, I asked my boss if I can just skip the meetings and read the notes, and he said ok! And my current job, there are no meeting notes. But we’ve been working from home for 3 years now so all meetings are video calls, which makes it easier since you can turn off the video and fold laundry or have breakfast while you listen. It’s even ok to listen on yout phone and go for a walk! This wasn’t allowed before Covid but I love that common sense has taken over. As for emails, everyone in my company hates them for some reason and switched to Teams chats. I don’t really get what the difference is: read and write here or there, same thing? But the trend led us to almost zero emails. On Teams, we have the same tone problems that you described, though. I was recently working on a webinar with a small group and found out afterwards that half the group had decided to complain to our boss’s boss about my colleague! I had no idea there was a problem. Yesterday, at our first corporate party in 3 years, the complaining woman didn’t even say hi. It was awkward. I guess some things are easier to convey live. And that’s probably why people use emojis, especially if they’re not writers… Sorry for the long response, got carried away! 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love long responses like this! Thanks for sharing. We’re very alike in that sense. In my job many meetings are online too, although I have some kind of intermediate role in some aspects of management and teaching in our institute, I always feel like I have to be there with camera on. No one ever told me. This is me and my guilt. Here in Germany, the trends have shifted back to presence for many things though. But at the onset of the pandemic there was a lot of push for the use of Slack, Teams, and other shared platforms online. I see their use, but don’t really see how it’s different from email either. To me it was always ‘more work’ and I hate it when people give me more work without obvious advantage. I didn’t get fewer emails either haha. I think for many it’s a matter of not having to read emails, and being able to respond quicker to people that are close and of higher importance. I don’t know. I’m very good at quickly handling dozens of emails. People really have different strategies; another think I’ve learned up close recently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m good at quickly handling dozens of emails, too. And sorting which ones to spend more time on. Teams messages tend to get lost if you don’t respond immediately. I see it as a problem, but some others probably see it as a blessing!

        Liked by 1 person

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