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B careful what u type :-J

Being careful when communicating weighs heavily on my mind. After all I was the 10 year old kid that asked my mother when the guests were due to arrive to her surprise birthday party.  After awhile, one starts to dislike the taste of one’s own left foot. Communicating is kind of like squirting toothpaste out of the tube; once it out, you can’t take it back.

It’s apparent that communicating via e-mail and texting has become prevalent in our society.  Electronic messages are fantastic ways to communicate. While safety concerns grab most of the media attention (driving while texting for example), I’d like to highlight another important aspect of electronic communication: e-communicating sensitive messages to customers and clients. (By the way, is “e-communicating” a real word, or did I just invent it??)  E-communicating is fast.  So fast, in fact, that some fundamental rules on written communication are overlooked.

Setting the tone in electronic messages is probably the most overlooked component to crafting successful communication. It is also critical to ensuring that the message won’t be interpreted incorrectly. I’m intrigued by the written letters sent in the 18th and 19th century and how the writer sets the tone. You may have seen old letters by George Washington where he spends the first half of the letter giving warm thoughts about the recipient, their family, or something that they’ve accomplished. By the time our first president got down to business, the recipient had a pretty good idea of George’s tone.

When taking care to make sure the message will be interpreted correctly, I usually remember the following three sentences and how identical wording can have such different implications.  Say them out loud to yourself while emphasizing the bold word.

Jim didn’t steal the bicycle.

Jim didn’t steal the bicycle.

Jim didn’t steal the bicycle.

It’s kind of strange how the meaning can differ.   Sometimes, electronic messages can relay the wrong thing. Instead we could type: Jim is out of town and there is no way he could have stolen the bicycle. Sensitive messages like this deserve a little more clarification.

Want to test your message in this regard? Try reading it from the recipient’s viewpoint.  Are they frustrated, confused or angry?  If so, written communications should take care to acknowledge their position. Perhaps we could begin by saying something like “Thank you for your message.  It is important to me that we take care of this right away. If I understand correctly, you want my help to resolve. . .”  If I am complacent in my message and do not set the tone of my reply and restate their concern, they may feel like I’m not listening.

When used properly, e-communication can be a quick and effective tool.  If we take a few more seconds and remember some of the fundamentals of written communication, things will go much smoother. And remember, in cases like my mother’s surprise birthday party, it sometimes works for me to just to keep my mouth closed. By the way, she forgave me right away.