You have something important to tell a colleague, but you’re on your way out the door for lunch. So, you dash off an email on your smartphone while riding the elevator and you’re done. Problem solved, right? Well… probably not. Depending on what you wrote in that email, you may have done more harm than good and you may not have saved yourself anytime.
Email is a powerful tool, but it’s not all-powerful. We use it for nearly all kinds of communication and it’s certainly a huge improvement over mailing a letter or sending a fax. But it’s not usually better than the phone. And yet, most people today would rather send an email than talk on the phone. In fact, companies like Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs have nearly eliminated voicemail on office phone lines.
Email is simply not a great communication tool. It’s efficacy is limited. Research shows we’re less cooperative in email and we’re more combative and negative as well. We’re also twice as likely to lie in digital communication than we are in person. 64 percent of us have either sent or received an email that caused anger and resentment.
The purpose of any communication is to relay messages and email isn’t even particularly good at that. We think we successfully convey sarcasm through email about 80% of the time, but that’s an incredibly optimistic estimate. In truth, our closest friends and family members are no better at detecting sarcasm in email than a stranger.
The secret is to understand what email does well and use it for those messages. For some things, email is the perfect communication tool. Everything else should be communicated over the phone or in person. Here are the five kinds of communication that email is suited for:
1. Recaps and follow-ups: After a good phone conversation or a meeting, send an email summarizing what was discussed and what the next steps are. You can also send a checklist by email or assign specific tasks. If someone responds with a question or pushback, pick up the phone again.
2. Updates: Again, these are emails that follow either phone or face-to-face conversations. For example, you’re working on a project and need to send a timeline, or let everyone on the team know what progress has been achieved. An email is perfect for that, as people may need to archive that note and refer back to it.
3. Relaying simple information: When I talk about “simple information”, I mean information that requires little context or explanation. That includes dates, costs, delegation of tasks, etc. We’re sometimes tempted to use email as a tool for conflict avoidance. We assign people tasks that we know they don’t want; we try to settle arguments by giving the “final word” through their inbox. It can feel like email is saving us time and trouble by avoiding an argument. But that’s not what email does. Email creates arguments. It escalates conflict. Solve the problem in person and then send the settled details digitally.
4. Praise: It may seem odd to say that an email is a great tool for sending praise, but I’ve found it works beautifully for this purpose. If you craft the note carefully, the recipient can save that email and return to it whenever they like. It’s a written record of appreciation. You can also include others on the chain so that the praise becomes public and invites more notes of approbation.
5. Sending attachments: This one is self-explanatory, I’m sure. Thank goodness we have a quick, cheap, ecologically friendly way to send documents, contracts, videos, photos and articles. Truly one of the great benefits of digital mail.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you choose to send an email:
- Does any of this information require debate or explanation? If so, pick up the phone.
- Did we cover this in a meeting or on a call and I’m summing up what was discussed? Send the email.
- Does this information need to be searchable, printable or archivable? Go ahead and hit send.
- Is this criticism or clarification? Go see the person, if you can. If not, pick up the phone.
If you do end up sending an email, try to make it as efficient as possible, so as to protect the recipient’s time and attention. First, use a descriptive subject line that clearly lays out the urgency. For example: “FYI only: a list of prospective candidates for a job opening.” Or: “Respond by Friday: your ideas for office configuration.” If the recipient doesn’t need to read that message immediately, putting that information in the subject line saves them from opening it and possibly losing focus on whatever they were working on.
Photo Courtesy of City Girl Business Club
The danger is, we think email is more efficient and persuasive than it is. One study asked people to convince others to fill out a brief survey, either through email or face-to-face. People thought they’d be about 50% successful when talking face-to-face, but actually succeeded about 70 percent of the time. Email went the other way: people thought email would be about 60% effective, but the results were close to zero. They convinced almost no one to complete the questionnaire when they asked through email. Never send an angry email as the first response to someone’s mistake. As I mentioned, email makes us ruder and less cooperative; it escalates the conflict. There is no such thing as “digital conflict resolution.” As a venture capitalist, Anthony K. Tjan wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “The irony is that while email, as an asynchronous channel, has the potential to be more thoughtful, it often promotes the opposite tendency to be immediately reactive. Why? Because the bark is almost always bigger than the bite behind remote digital shields.”
If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be this: stop avoiding real-time conversation. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or visit someone’s desk. The human voice is brilliantly designed to convey meaning and we are biologically designed to pick up subtleties and context from both tone and body language. You lose a great deal of meaning when you use text alone.
There’s one more sense that gets lost in an email: touch. Human touch is a powerful tool. Studies from both the University of Chicago and Harvard show that just shaking someone’s hand can lead to more honest communication and better outcomes in negotiations.
So, close your inbox and learn to love analog again. If an email won’t accomplish what you want (and it rarely does), pick up the phone. Or get really revolutionary and have a real-life conversation. You might discover you’re more productive, more efficient, and, in the end, happier.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."