Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How our words abuse us!

Anyone who's been on a date knows how easily your words and intentions can be misconstrued to embarrassing results. Take that setting, and remove all of those wonderful cues of interaction that our brains process without conscious effort--subtleties in spoken tone, facial expressions, body language, etc.

Guess what you have?

Email, forums and chat!

I've seen time after time that unwanted conflict creeps into electronic communication when one of two things happens:
  • Someone tries to type a mail with clever and subtle sarcasm that isn't conveyed with the words they use,
  • someone reads into the message tone and meaning that it was never intended to have.
Those misunderstandings escalate rapidly and spiral far out of control, and cause relationships to collapse.

There is one good way to try and avoid this, though:

Be over-sensitive to your own writing.

Be flat-out paranoid about ways you communicate. If there's ever a question, be clear instead of funny. It'll save you heartache.

At the same time:
Be cautious about how you allow other people's writing to affect you.

A lot of times, reading something a second or third time, and thinking of it from several angles of intent, will give you a completely different interpretation of what someone meant. If you are still unsure, ask them PRIVATELY before escalating and arming in public.

Bottom line: realize that written communication is rarely clear. Very, very few people write with skill enough to communicate correct intention. It always pays to clarify before engaging any interesting emotions.

No comments: