Have you ever slipped into hot water because of an email? Have you misinterpreted a sender’s message and become offended over nothing? According to research at the University of Chicago, the inability to step outside of one’s own head may be behind many woeful email blunders.

Justin Kruger, PhD, and Nicholas Epley, PhD, of the University of Chicago, have published research in the December Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that explains why these electronic misunderstandings occur so frequently. Here’s a quick recap from the American Psychological Association’s report on this:

“People overestimate both their ability to convey their intended tone – be it sarcastic, serious or funny – when they send an e-mail, as well as their ability to correctly interpret the tone of messages others send to them. The reason for this communication disconnect is egocentrism – the well-established social psychological phenomenon whereby people have a difficult time detaching themselves from their own perspectives and understanding how other people will interpret them.”

Bottom line: Pick up the phone!
As Epley says, “Email is fine if you just want to communicate content, but not any emotional material.” Wise advice.


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