In last week’s blog, I shared four things we should consider to avoid miscommunication. One of these is the form of delivery our communication takes, especially when dealing with a highly charged topic.
Writing letters, emails, or texts is certainly easier than speaking about sensitive subjects in person. The distance provided by written forms can offer a protective shield. However, if the receiver doesn’t accurately perceive your intended tone, it can be an unmitigated disaster.
Whenever you’re dealing with sensitive subjects or feelings, it’s generally much better to talk it out rather than write it out. Here’s why:
A friend of mine once sensed a growing distance with another friend and was feeling improperly judged. Rather than talk about it personally, my friend decided to write a letter. After reading the draft, I implored my friend not to send it, for fear it would be misconstrued. Unfortunately, my advice was ignored, and in the aftermath, their friendship was severely damaged. My friend made the mistake of assuming the receiver would insert the correct tone when reading the letter. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.
This is a classic example of what can happen when you use written communication in a situation where face to face (or at least over the phone, if face to face is not possible) would be better. When speaking, you’re in control of your tone of voice and body language, and there’s less chance of misinterpretation. At least if happens, you’re there to correct the situation through give and take. In contrast, written correspondence leaves far too much to chance and takes much longer to rectify if your words are misunderstood. It’s a risk to avoid if you can.
Another problem with written communication—especially in this digital age—is that you have no guarantee it will stay with the intended recipient. When you send an email, you have no control over where it goes. Who knows where it could end up! (It also means we should think twice before hitting “Reply all!”)
That’s why it’s so important to try and have our sensitive conversations in person. It may be easier to jet off an email or post a rant on Facebook. But in the long term, that’s probably not going to be your best bet.
How do you handle the communication of sensitive or emotional emails? Have you ever written out your feelings in a letter, email, or social media posting and later regretted it? Share your experiences and advice by commenting below; your story could be helpful to someone in our online community!