In face-to-face conversations, you can often sense when someone’s lying to you. The speaker’s shifty eyes, facial tics and fidgety behavior raise your guard.
But when you receive e-mail, you cannot observe the sender’s body language. As carefully as you read between the lines, you lack the nonverbal cues to evaluate the overall message.
That’s why you should not necessarily believe every word of an important e-mail from an employee. Seek out the staffer and discuss sensitive issues eye-to-eye.
Interestingly, recent studies have found that people are more apt to lie in an e-mail than if they write a note on real paper. Research by a trio ofprofessors (Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University, Terri Kurtzberg of Rutgers and Charles Naquin of DePaul University) has found that writers who use pen and paper generally convey more honesty than those who send e-mail.
“People feel more justified in acting in self-serving ways when typing as opposed to writing on paper,” Kurtzberg told Fortune. That’s probably because the act of writing on paper seems more permanent even though e-mails “are actually harder to erase or contain,” she adds.
When you receive e-mails from peers or employees in which they express opinions, admit error or deny wrongdoing, don’t take the message at face value. Read with a critical eye. Does the sender include information that you can verify on your own? If not, probe further for the truth.