Inspiration for Transformation

Understanding E-Body Language

Understanding E-Body LanguageUnderstanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online by Robert Whipple

Ideas in this eye-opening book will help you every time you send or receive an electronic note, whether at work or at home. You will learn to read between the lines in all forms of incoming electronic communications and ensure outgoing messages convey your true intentions and are politically appropriate. This book also teaches you how to avoid the escalating and embarrassing “e-mail grenade” battles that are too prevalent online. There are many tips for managing your electronic inbox to avoid overload and “e-burnout.” Understanding E-body Language will forever change how you view e-mail, while making your online communications easier and more effective.


What is e-body language?

E-body language is the cyber equivalent of physical body language. The majority of content in e-mail is written between the lines of text, just as the majority of information conveyed verbally is in the tone of voice and body language of the person speaking.

Why did you choose that title?

That particular title seems to capture the imagination and curiosity of everyone who sees it. On first hearing the title, there is a brief moment of confusion. Then there is a realization that this is a new topic that could be very important to all people who communicate online.

What is so important about E-body language?

Most people agree that good communication is a critical skill. As the world has switched from predominately voice communication 15 years ago to mostly e-mail today, most people don’t realize that the electronic version of â conversation requires different skills for success. Those who do master the art of reading between the lines and framing outgoing notes accurately will have a significant advantage in business and in life.

Is this skill difficult to learn?

It is actually easy to gain new sensitivity to online communication. The skills are mostly common sense, but most people forget about some basic issues in the flurry of everyday communication. This book helps close the gaps by giving a pragmatic set of ideas that help people every day.

Does the book help people manage the overload situation with e-mail and reduce the time required to communicate well online?

By all means! There is a chapter dedicated to that. The e-mail tsunami is becoming a huge quality of life issue for many people. It will only get worse, yet there are many tools and ideas available to reduce the load by 50% or more.

How would an organization benefit from the ideas in this book?

Global competition has made it more difficult to find and maintain any advantage over the competition. Many groups are tapped out of ideas on how to improve operations. They are on a merry-go-round of complex improvement initiatives in a desperate search for something with lasting impact. E-xcellence offers a pragmatic and inexpensive approach to resolving some of the most frustrating issues in organizations quickly.

All organizations face the realities and problems associated with communicating online efficiently. The solutions to these problems appear elusive in most environments, so those organizations smart enough to include e-xcellence as part of their vision have a huge competitive advantage.

Your organization has a sustainable competitive advantage if:

  • You live and work in an environment unhampered by the problems of poor online communication.
  • Employees are not consumed with trying to sort out important information from piles of garbage email.
  • Your coworkers are not focused on one-upmanship and internal turf wars.
  • Leaders know how to use electronic communications to build rather than destroy trust.

The corporate improvements are like a ripe apple on the tree, just waiting to be picked. Training in this skill area does not require months of struggling with hidden gremlins. While employees often push back on productivity improvement training, they welcome this topic enthusiastically because it improves their quality of work life.

Is the book aimed at individuals or teams?

The book was written for individuals, but there is significant teamwork discussion as well. I think an ideal use of this book is for all members of a team to read as a part of a lunchtime discussion for improving internal communication. The topics work very well in that forum.  I offer team coaching in this mode as one part of my consulting service.

Is the interpretation of E-body language always accurate.

No. E-body language can give clues that need to be verified or at least tested for validity. This is the same phenomenon as live body language.  Just because the person you are talking to is pulling on his ear lobe does not guarantee that he wants to hear more. It could be that he has an itchy ear at the moment.  E-body language gives indications and hints about the writer’s frame of mind when sending out a note, but it would be wrong to interpret all signals literally. The antidote is to look for patterns of communication where the meaning becomes crystal clear. I describe how to do this in the book.

What are the major components of E-body Language?

The first thing is to realize there is meaning in every part of an e-mail and learn how to interpret it. For example, many people are unaware of the power hidden in the Subject line of a note. I explain the significance of each part of an e-mail. I then break the subject into three categories, Tone, Use of E-mail, and Timing.

Are there some over-arching principles that all people should know about e-mail?

Yes, I list several over-arching principles that govern the dynamics when people use e-mail. Most of these are known to people, but their significance seems to get lost in the daily routine of e-mail. For example, everyone knows that E-mail is different from conversations, but often people do not consciously change communication patterns based on that knowledge. A writer cannot modify content of an e-mail based on the real-time visible reaction of the other party as is possible in face-to-face conversations. Instead, all of the information is presented at once without feedback. Misunderstandings or hurt feelings are common. No matter how sensitive you try to be, the reader may interpret your comments as being insensitive.

How does this book mesh with your first book, The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals?

There is a direct tie-in because this book is all about building and maintaining trust in the online environment. There is a significant leadership component to each chapter of the book. Since leaders communicate more online, the necessity to do so with precision is vital. Trust can be built or destroyed easily in online communication and leaders need to exercise care.

For example, the permanent nature of e-mails is often forgotten in the hubbub of everyday interactions, but the implications are serious. Consider the difference between verbal praise and praise via e-mail. When praise is given vocally, the impact is reduced over time as people tend to forget. When praise is given via e-mail, the recipient is likely to read it many times and even print it out to show others at home. The benefit is amplified.  Unfortunately, the same more lasting impact occurs on the negative side. A verbal reprimand is an unhappy event for anyone, but time often mitigates the pain. A reprimand in an e-mail tends to endure and even feel worse with time. It will be read over many times, and may be printed out to pass around in the break room.

Is this technology available as a seminar or course?

Yes. I have the material configured in many ways to allow training or constructive dialog within teams. To see the outline of products and services, visit


Robert WhippleRobert Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Incorporated, an organization dedicated to development of leaders. He has spoken on leadership topics and the development of trust in numerous venues across the country. He also teaches leadership and business classes at several universities. A highly successful leader at Eastman Kodak Company for over 30 years, Mr. Whipple accomplished revolutionary change while leading a division of over 2000 people through the application of outstanding “people” skills.

He is author of three leadership books:

  • The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals,
  • Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and
  • Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind

His ability to communicate pragmatic approaches to building Trust in an entertaining and motivational format has won him top ranking wherever he speaks. Audiences relate to his material enthusiastically because it is simple, yet profound. His work has earned him the popular title of “The TRUST Ambassador”

Mr. Whipple has been named one of the top 100 thought leaders in the country on the topic of leadership development by Leadership Excellence Magazine. His articles and other information about Leadergrow can be downloaded from the corporate website, or BLOG

Mr.Whipple holds a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Union College, a Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University, and a Masters of Business Administration from The Simon School at The University of Rochester. He is a Management Quality “Blackbelt” from Eastman Kodak and a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) from the American Society for Training and Development.

Favorite quote: “The highest calling for any leader is to grow other leaders.”

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