The Danger of One Way Emotional Emails

A friend of mine recently posted upon Facebook her concerns about emotional lengthy emails and cautioned those with a lot on their minds to pick up the phone or to set up a meeting for direct communication.  I responded to her concern with a cheer, but I also stated that as an educational technologist I have been teaching this to parents, students, teachers, and administrators for years, and while I believe they can respond in class and upon tests regarding what to do in those situations, I am seeing little evidence of this in real practice and interaction among individuals.  In fact, there are many one way emotional emails being sent to teachers and administrators that need additional two way feedback from all parties involved, but is that happening?  Are these inquiries and/or complaints being properly handled to resolve conflict?

In my presentation of a one way emotional email, I am referring to those emails that are intended to define in great depth a problem with varying points of dissatisfaction.  These emails are harmful to the person of subject, but these emails are rarely sent to that person.  These emails are also sent without discussing topics with those involved.  I call them one way emotional emails because they remind me of politicians in front of a camera, a preacher on television, or a paid 30 minute advertisement on TV.  There is very little time for rebuttal or real open discussion from the other point of view, but there sure is a lot said about the other party, consumer, religion, or product.  It generally seems like a one sided and most likely biased document of frustration.

In my experiences in schools, one-way emotional emails have taken the form of various parent concerns such as academic goals, social circumstance, and disciplinary actions.  However, I have also seen teachers concerned about student behavior, school policies, and modern learners, and let’s not forget administrators intending to improve the school environment, student learning outcomes, and community visibility.  While I am not perfect in these matters either, lengthy emails of extreme frustration or emotional content are not always the best response to a situation because frequently parties that are involved are not understood, questioned, or expected to respond.  Conflict is defined.  Thoughtful resolution is not.

Well, without continuing to create a one way blog, I am seeking your advice.  How do you feel about email used to describe well documented frustration?  Should email be used to complain in such depth?  Is it valuable or is it defining a generation of complainers who can not solve problems through direct conversation?  Are we solving problems or just telling another person in hopes that some else will solve the problem?

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