Re: Use of email
From: Jim Mayer (
Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 09:43:28 -0800 (PST)
I completely agree with Rod and others that email is great for getting work
done, exchanging information, stories, etc.

Interestingly, what Rod picked up out of my note is not what I was trying
to say!  However, because Rod is clearly a skilled email user and quoted my
note appropriately, I still understand where he is coming from.

My main point was that email messages benefit from more thought and
formality than they often get.  The reason for that is that the "feedback
cycle" of an email conversation is longer and more variable  than for face
to face communication.

That is not bad, it's just different!

On Feb 11, 2014 10:46 AM, "Rod Lambert" <rod [at]> 

> 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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