Telling Lies: Email vs. Letters

Yesterday I heard on KCBS radio about a study that showed people tend to lie more when communicating via email then they do when writing a letter.  I discovered the studies came out of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania led by Liuba Belkin and co-authored by Terri Kurtzberg of Rutgers and Charles Maquin of DePaul.  In one of the studies, students were given $89 to divide between themselves and strangers either via email or via written letter.  Those that divided cash via email lied about the amount 92% of the time, while those who divided it via letter lied less than 64% of the time.  “It’s not just that emailers were more deceptive,” Belkin says.  “Its that the magnitude by which they lies was significantly greater.”  Of course, this has implication for everyone, since we now communicate via email so often.  Perhaps when we need to know the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we should ask for it in writing.  The old-fashioned form of writing on paper.

Bad News via Email or In Person?

In Inc. Magazine’s ( Year in Review there is a side bar on entrepreneurs crafting thoughtful emails.  All of the examples are bad news being communicated, such as company layoffs.  Reading these examples, I was less interested in the artful words and more interested in why these leaders decided to communicate bad news via email.  Is it because their company is geographically diverse?  Or has email become such the default business medium that they presume it is appropriate for every communication.   Seems to me that news prone to spark emotional responses from employees, such as company layoffs, is still best communicated in person.  In person you can read the reaction on people’s faces and express more pathos to moderate the bad news.  Don’t get me wrong, I love email for many reasons, but not for communicating bad news — better to do that in person.

Weekly Presidential Address on YouTube

The use of the Internet and, in particular, YouTube was well utilized by the Obama campaign.  Wisely, the President-elect will continue to utilize 21st-century technology while in office.  He just gave his first weekly ‘radio’ address and put it on YouTube.

Some say he is trying to woo the younger generation.  I say he is communicating in the 21st Century to all ages.  YouTube combines the visual stimulation previously only available on TV with the flexibility of consumer choice only available on the web.  People of all ages appreciate that combination.


Just finished listening to Obama’s acceptance speech.  It is hard to find words to describe this historical moment.  Inspirational is the closest I can come.  My favorite part was his story about the 106 year old woman in Atlanta and all she had seen in her life.  What a wonderful way to use narrative to share all the country has endured and achieve in the last century.  Listening to his speech I felt the power of the historical moment.  I am inspired.