Click to Print

When e-Mail Doesn't Do the Job

It might be a time-saver, but e-mail is not always the way to go when it comes to effective communication.
November 18, 2002

Has this ever happened to you? You spend a lovely Sunday afternoon watching the fall foliage (or whatever). You check your voice-mail messages every once in a while, but there are none. When you return to your home office, you find five new e-mail messages from an important client, each one marked "urgent." When you call the client, explain that you check your e-mails only once on Sundays, and suggest (gently) that the client leave a voice mail if he has an urgent message, the client chews you out for being unresponsive and tells you to "get with the times; e-mail is the way people communicate these days."

Sadly, as the pace of business gets more and more frantic, many people are using e-mail as a substitute for human interaction. Diane DiResta, president of DiResta Communications Inc. in Staten Island, New York, and author of the book Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch and Pizzazz, thinks this is a big mistake. "I know people are saying they're cutting back on meetings and conference calls and relying more on e-mail," says DiResta, "but while e-mail is a great tool, it's not the appropriate way to communicate in all situations."

Learn More
Get more tips on the do's and don't of e-mail communication in "e-Mail Etiquette."

As an example, DiResta tells the story of a close friend who e-mailed her with news that the friend's mother had died. "Because I had recently changed my e-mail address," recalls DiResta, "the message bounced back to her. Fortunately, she saw it, picked up the phone and called me. If she hadn't checked her e-mails that day, or if the message had gotten through and had gotten lost in the 100 or more e-mails I receive every day, I would not have known her mother had died and would have missed the funeral."

So when is e-mail the wrong way to communicate?

Cliff Ennico is host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt and a leading expert on managing growing companies. His advice for small businesses regularly appears on the "Protecting Your Business" channel on the Small Business Television Network at E-mail him at