Disasters in e-mailing


Be obscure clearly.  ~E.B. White

I have discovered that one of the most difficult things for me to do is to communicate effectively within an e-mail when the person I am writing to is not able to see my face or hands.  Recently, I wrote an e-mail with all the good intentions of letting the reader know that I understood his pain, questioned his tactics a bit, but overall I wanted him to know that I was there for him.

Epic fail.                                           

What I later discovered is that he felt I sucker punched him when he was down and I ultimately lost some of the trust we had between us as he felt I was judging him and treating him like a little kid.  How did it all go so wrong?  I mean, besides the fact that I was judging him a bit.

First of all, I will be the first to admit that I have a habit of saying what is on my mind at the time I think it.  My filter needs to get changed or something, as too many times I look back at something I said and realize, much later, that there probably was a less “honest” way of stating what I said.  As I tell my kids all the time, just because you have an opinion, does not mean you have to share it.  It is when the roads of caring and honesty collide, within the medium of the E-Mail, when all hell breaks loose.

I also talk a lot with my hands.  Obviously, when having a conversation with me, sarcasm and wit are evident by the looks on my face and the tone.  But within e-mails, there is a disconnect and the actual meaning of what I am saying and what I write down become separate.

There are Emoticons and of course, the ever present “lol”, but how many times can you do that and still maintain an adult conversation?  I’ll tell ya, about once.  After that your e-mail starts to look like a child wrote it.

How to fix it?  Well, I have found that apologizing works well, but it does tend to reduce the amount of times people write to me.  Calling works better, but then for those who are overseas, it does not lend itself to the realities of my bank balance.  Texting…well, I just hate it.   I feel my IQ drop every time I read something that looks like: I h8 to say it.  I mean, Good Lord.

This brings me back to good old fashioned writing-it-all -down in a letter.  I have yet to discover a better way to convey my meaning by just using the English language, even though I am a huge fan of the Thesaurus.  I suppose I will keep making slip-ups and apologizing until I master this art or until everyone in my contact list blocks me.  Hopefully, those who I offend tell me so I can do the right thing, because without an occasional bitch-slap, I will have no way of knowing that what I think I am saying is not actually what others are getting from reading my e-mails.

So much of it comes down to the emotional level of the person reading what I wrote.  If they are in a bad mood, they are more likely to take offense.  Perhaps I should put in my subject line:  “Read when you are in a happy mood”.  Or, I could also post a disclaimer like they do with movies and DVD’s.  In either event, as I continue through my journey for answers, I hope that I get positive feedback that will increase my knowledge.  If nothing else, I am grateful for my friends and family who “get” my sense of humor and blunt way of speaking. 

Of course, we can always take the view of E.L. Doctorow who said, “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”  Or perhaps it is better said by Nathaniel Hawthorn who was quoted as stating, “Easy reading is damn hard writing”.  I agree with these and find humor in them both.

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