Re: Use of email
From: Malcolm Eva (
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 08:01:08 -0800 (PST)
Thanks to everyone who replied to my original request - it's been very 
re-assuring to note that our experiences seem widely shared - by and large it 
works well, sometimes it gets out of hand, at which point onlookers will call 
out, "whoa, time to stop this." and everyone looks for ways to re-build any 
damaged bridges.  One great thing about the email is that if two people who 
fell out badly on email - in public - get together privately to sort things 
out, there's a good email afterwards which tells us of the good outcome; 
without that the rest of us might not have known except by rumour that things 
were settled again.

While there are several of us who would rather issues that could become emotive 
should be discussed in person, that's demanding a lot of a community of 70+ 
people, many of whom are out to work during the days.  An electronic forum is 
more efficient, except that, as has been said, it doesn't show up the 
non-verbal signs in a communication so is easily misinterpreted.

Th  best etiquette statement one of us came up with was, never send an email 
which you yourself would be upset to receive.  Concise, empathetic, demands a 
few moments' reflection before hitting "send".

Our meeting on the subject is next week; if any new ideas surface from that 
I'll post them to this group.

Thanks again


On 11 Feb 2014, at 15:45, Rod Lambert wrote:

> 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:
> Diane:
> "But we DO also use it [email] to discuss ISSUES, and yes, sometimes it can
> get
>> pretty heated.  Only very occasionally does it spiral into overt flaming
> or
>> 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."
> Jim:
>>> 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]>
> Message-ID:
>        <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
> thread!
> 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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