This one’s for you, Red
February 23, 2005
First, never, ever, criticize someone in email. For reasons that I have never fully grasped, any negative emotion is always amplified by communication through email. Sometimes you intend to be critical — someone has done something dumb, or said something silly, or emailed something ridiculous. Resist the urge to reply. Sometimes you don’t mean to be critical, you’re just making an observation, or engaging in technical debate, or adding facts to a discussion. But as soon as you sense that the recipient has taken your email as criticism, you must immediately switch media. A face-to-face meeting is best, but a phone call is also okay.
Second, don’t get into prolonged technical debates in email. I’ve seen threads lasting weeks with a whole series of kibitzers, with everyone restating their points of view and nothing getting settled. Often email has the effect of polarizing the debate, and the combatants end up further apart in their views than when the debate began. As soon as you sense this happening, you must immediately switch media. A meeting with the core people involved is best, but a conference call is also okay.
You can download the whole manifesto in PDF form and other manifestos at Change This.