Monday, October 27, 2008

Reading between the lines

Last week brought unpleasant email correspondence between me and a family member regarding the election. I’ve known for some time now that he and I differ on, well, everything, and was not surprised to read that he’s voting for Obama. What shocked me was how he misread my emails. Despite the smiley faces I used, my cousin still thought I was too aggressive in tone, which was the exact opposite of what I was going for. And unfortunately, he didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt, knowing I would never intentionally hurt him. Instead he took his ball and went home and won’t respond any more.

Email is the worst form of communication. It should be used for office memos or quick shots of information and nothing else. Because no one understands emotion through email.

I’ve had a few failed attempts to communicate well via email, and I am always amazed by the backfire. Each time it has happens I’m convinced I’ve read and re-read, searched for anything objectionable or offensive, put in little smiley faces and thought I’ve worded things well only to receive an email back that lets me know I did not get my point across. This frustrates me to no end. I fancy myself a bit of a communicator; it is not pleasing to realize I have completely failed to explain myself well.

Not pleasing… heck, it drives me crazy, especially when I think back on how carefully I constructed my email. But sometimes, no matter how careful I may be, someone will read me wrong.

It’s a great lesson for me, though, to be slow to speak and slow to anger and to ask for clarification before declaring war.

I hope my cousin will think about that, too.