While email and text messaging are great communication tools, they are poor vehicles for dealing with conflict. Sadly, they can be used very effectively for instigating conflict. I’ve seen passive-aggressive behavior taken to new heights by individuals who don’t have to worry the interpersonal dynamics of looking another person in the eye when talking to them or reading and responding to group body language and other visual cues. It’s easy to rail against someone from a distance. It’s also common to misinterpret the intentions behind communication and jump to conclusions that may be flawed.
When you are a leader or manager part of your job is to listen until it hurts. You need to force yourself to pay full attention to what the other person is saying and then ask clarifying questions to make sure you fully understand them. It is also critical that you pay attention not just to what is being said, but also the body language and tone of voice. Both provide clues as to what is important to that person.