Use of email
From: Rod Lambert (
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 07:46:00 -0800 (PST)
I think a significant chunk of this discussion can be clarified by looking
at the following quotes from Diana's and then Jim's email:

"But we DO also use it [email] to discuss ISSUES, and yes, sometimes it can
> pretty heated.  Only very occasionally does it spiral into overt flaming
> hostility, but even civil discussions can leave people with hurt or angry
> feelings.  But then, that's true of in-person meetings as well.  I've left
> plenty of in-person meetings feeling unheard, misunderstood, resentful,
> etc."

>>Unfortunately, it's hard to read body language in an email
>>thread! For example, suppose you and I were talking face to face...

Jim is talking about solving a "issue" between 2 people and Diane (and I)
are talking about discussing "ISSUES" by the whole neighborhood. Expecting
to do all the work at a business meeting for some issues is expecting a lot
(we meet only once a month here at EcoVillage at Ithaca).

Rod Lambert
(with apologies for trying to speak for Diane)

Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 22:54:23 -0500
From: Jim Mayer <jim [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Use of email
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
        <CAGYWHRNTT-Gev50ykOdwoX5dOsMkTVHTmCPXHr40QHN8iSjGtg [at]>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8

I'm not in a co-housing group, but I've been using email for over thirty
years.  In my experience, email is most useful when people treat it as if
they are writing a physical letter. It's tempting, though, because email
feels so interactive, to treat email correspondence as if it was a verbal
conversation.  Unfortunately, it's hard to read body language in an email

For example, suppose you and I were talking face to face.  I turn to you
and say, smiling, with an open body posture: "I can't believe you said
that!".  Now, suppose I said exactly the same words but with an angry scowl
and my arms tightly crossed.  The meanings are completely different!

Continuing the same example, suppose I said "I can't believe you said
that!", and then noticed that you  froze and looked hurt.  If I'd been
admiring your chutzpah, I'd know my meaning hadn't gotten across and would
say something right away.

With email, though, the message I blearily typed at 2:00 am might not be
read for hours, and it could be the next evening before I checked my email
again.  A lot of  interpersonal damage can happen in a day!

Group emails can get even messier.  You and I may have known each other for
years, and that context can promote understanding, but John Doe, who moved
in last week, doesn't know me at all.  It's the difference between a public
letter and a private one.

It sounds to me like the self-moderation and informal guidelines that Diana
mentioned are working about as well as they could.  I've never seen it done
"perfectly".  Actually, I wonder if the "difference in philosophy" Diana
mentioned might have to do with differences in learning style as much as
anything else.  I find it helpful to write my thoughts down, and I
appreciate it when other's do the same.  I've known very smart people,
though, who have a much more interactive learning style.  For them,
communication is a contact sport!

Thanks for the interesting topic!

Jim Mayer
Rochester, NY

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