Chapter 14

E-Mail Etiquette Is Culturally Sensitive

Once It’s Sent, It Cannot Be Undone

In today’s global business environment, we frequently meet, greet, and establish relationships using virtual communication, especially e-mail. Very often, we never see or interact with the people with whom we have e-mail relationships in person. Sometimes, we don’t even talk to them by phone because of the international time differences. Thanks to this, e-mail has firmly established its place as the number one method of business communication, and we use it almost as often for social relationships. And although we don’t yet know the full impact that text and social media will have on business and social communication, it is safe to say that the cultural etiquette that is appropriate for e-mail would extend to text and social media as well.

E-mail is a relationship skill just like any other form of communication, and just as we would for an in-person or telephone relationship, we need to establish the terms up front. However, e-mail comes with one unique characteristic that other communication methods don’t share: Once something has been put in writing and sent via e-mail, it cannot be undone. If you offend someone in an e-mail, the recipient can read it over and over again—and the person usually feels worse with each subsequent reading. Whereas with interpersonal or phone conversations, each person has their own recollection of what was said, which is open to perceptual differences—unless you ...

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