Management Matters: Resolving/Reducing Friction When You Can’t Meet

Email is a good way to connect with people but it falls short in some pretty critical areas. Electric communication will never be an adequate stand-in for talking with someone eye-to-eye and in real time.

The actual distance between you and your boss, employee, client or colleague has no relation to how friction and conflicts can arise. With so much of how we communicated done through our no-verbal behaviors, not being seen, or only seeing someone from the shoulders up can result in an increase in the problems that arise from trying to convey our intentions.

A rule that I think people should consider unbreakable under any circumstance is that you should never, ever, try to resolve a conflict using email.

With no non-verbal cue to clue people in to your intention, the receiver of your communication has to guess what you mean. Amazingly, most people make negative assumptions, not positive ones. So you should do whatever you can to take the guesswork out of your communication. As soon as you get a sense that you are being misunderstood, DO pick up the phone. And if you can’t talk to the person you need to in real time, DON’T leave a message that can be left open to misinterpretation. Make it clear that you need to talk to them and ask for the best time to do so, at their earliest convenience.

When you get them on the phone or virtual platform:

  • Pay careful attention to the tone of your voice. You want to sound as you intend to.
  • Remove distractions. You need to be focused on this conversation. If you are doing something else while talking (such as checking your email), they will get the impression that this conversation isn’t that important to you.
  • Check to make sure they are hearing your message accurately by asking them to paraphrase what it is you have just said to them. .
  • Listen to their tone and see if it is hesitant, uncertain or disbelieving. If it is, they may still have some doubt about your message.

Resolving conflict and reducing friction when you are unable to be with someone in-person and separated by distance, even if it’s on another floor of the building will take a little more of your effort and time. Don’t handle this critical skill using email as your method of choice. By clarifying the message and your intention to insure effective communication by talking to someone like and in real-time, you can save both of you time in the long run.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management consulting practice that specializes in developing people in the areas of leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. oni can be reached at

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