SPP Tip: Give Up Email

By Jean Dufresne AIA posted 09-30-2013 12:28


By Chayanne Husar

Emailing is of course a part of everyone's life and is a fast, effective way to keep a record of communication of a project.  Using email to clarify meetings, understandings, and schedules helps to keep a project on task and moving forward and I would always encourage consistent communication with a client.  However, there comes a time to give up email.  I have caught myself providing wordy descriptions when a simple sketch solves the problem, it's true that a picture is worth 1,000 words. It is also easy to fall victim to rapid fire exchanges that quickly escalate a small misunderstanding to a big problem.  Stop and pick up the phone (taking a few deep breaths beforehand if needed).  Emails can easily be read with the wrong tone shifting a simple building issue into a personal problem - there is no replacement for real human interaction.  Sometimes this will require more than a phone call, turn to face to face meetings or video conferencing if visuals are needed to solve the problem and don't be afraid to talk to your clients, consultants, and contractors. When it comes to communication, take a moment to assess your options and be flexible to all of the tools at your disposal to achieve efficient, clear, and friendly service.

What is your favorite means of communication?
What is your communication pet peeve?

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1 comment


11-26-2013 09:43

Thank you for this excellent and important advice. I often speak of the tyranny of emails. They are often used to avoid and obscure as much as they are to face a situation and clarify it. I have developed systems to limit email communication by getting back to basics in developing written programs that are referred to and revised and communication logs that the team comments within a single source electronic document with date, issue, what intermediate action is required to resolve it and final result. Names of required responders are in bold red so not everyone in the email notification of an issue needs to read every word (or they can if they want) and can simply scan the document for their name. Saves everyone on the project time yet all get a a chance to monitor the project quickly without wasting valuable time reading each email that comes through that may or may not need their response or even their understanding. I also create multiple group contacts and decide who needs to see something yet any team member can view all communications by logging into the central log to review the project communications and decisions. The goal is to achieve the necessary level of communication and arrive at decisions that are documented in a central data base without wasting the teams efforts and resources on having to read hurried and sometimes haphazard communications. It forces more directive communications with the purpose of each communication more carefully considered. And yes, a picture can be worth a thousand words and a phone call can be worth 1000 emails.