BUSINESS

Want To Look Smarter? Stop Sending Emails And Speak Like A Human

02/27/2015 03:37 pm ET | Updated Feb 27, 2015
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Think you’re saving time and looking pretty smart dashing off endless emails to your boss?

Do yourself a big favor, stop typing and talk to her instead.

A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business finds that when you speak out loud, you're viewed as more intelligent. That's compared with someone reading a message you've written. (So call me and I’ll read this article out loud to you.)

“If you want to be seen as thoughtful and intelligent and someone who has something going on between their ears, it’s important quite literally to be heard,” Booth professor Nick Epley told The Huffington Post.

For this study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science, Epley and PhD candidate Juliana Schroeder had participants write out job pitches to prospective employers. Some pitches were read by the employers. Others were spoken out loud by the candidates. When the pitches were heard out loud, recruiters viewed the candidates as more thoughtful, rational and intelligent. The written pitches were not as well-received.

Though emailing and group-chatting at work can certainly feel more productive, you lose some of the benefits of spoken communication, as the research shows. With the spoken word, you can convey meaning through tone. If it's an in-person conversation, your body also gives off contextual cues. Text is more of a “blank slate,” Epley says. Ever get an email from someone you despise or fear? It’s hard to truly gauge its meaning.

In other work he’s done, Epley found that sarcasm and sincerity are really hard to distinguish over email, and people don't seem to realize it. That leads to a lot of miscommunication.

Of course, talking can also be a lot more productive than typing. What often takes several emails to communicate -- like trying to schedule a lunch or a meeting over Gmail -- can be quickly handled with conversation.

Epley explains that talking to each other is the closest humans get to truly connecting with each other’s minds. “It’s how you demonstrate that you are a thinking, feeling human being as opposed to something lesser,” he says.

Even talking to strangers can make you feel more connected and happier, even strangers on the subway, according to other research Epley's done.

“Engaging someone in conversation humanizes you,” says Epley.

The message about our mediums of choice seems all the more critical these days, when we email or group chat with coworkers who are sitting a few feet away or ignore our ringing phones in favor of a quick text.

Taking his research to heart, Epley doesn’t have a smartphone, doesn’t text and definitely abhors Twitter.

He does do email though, he says. “I’m not some sort of freakish person.”

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