Do we click the send button a little too quickly?
How many messages have been sent that we wish we could take back? Hasty communication can damage relationships and ruin careers. There are many email exchanges I wish I could have been more patient with. Too often we write an email or send a text without carefully inspecting the content or reflecting on the tone of the message.
Once the send button is clicked it’s kind of too late. Messages can be interpreted in a different way than what we had intended. Ultimately it’s all in the eye of the beholder. If we’re on unfriendly terms with the person reading the message, it will be read with a critical eye and examined for underlying meanings and agendas.
Here are some communication tips that will keep us from burying our head in our hands. Unfortunately many times we only learn after making the same mistakes over and over again.
The following five recommendations come from my own personal communication blunders.
1. Don’t send messages when angry.
Anger can be our biggest enemy especially in sensitive situations. It can make us say and do things we will regret. During moments of anger our mind and intelligence become clouded. We become heated and just the way clouds cover the sun our emotions cover our ability to think rationally. Such a heated frame of mind won’t usually lead to a positive or productive message and can only make things worse.
2. Hold your horses.
If you get a message that seems to be accusing or criticizing you don’t respond right away. We don’t like to be accused or blamed for anything. The moment we feel someone pointing a finger at we become defensive and reactive. When something like this happens I like to let it sit for a day before responding. I want to make sure that I have calmed down so I can see with clarity. Perhaps it wasn’t as much of an accusation as I thought it was. Don’t be too eager to give them a piece of your mind.
3. Reach out to a friend.
A. If we have a trustworthy and objective friend, have them read the message you received and see if it’s as bad as we thought it was. A friend who sees the message in exactly the way you see it won’t be of much help. Rather, he or she may only aggravate the situation. I’m lucky to have an objective friend who usually presents a much calmer perspective on the message than the one my mind created.
Over the last couple of years, due to some challenging situations with others, I’ve needed to call on my friend to help me see the messages I send and receive with clarity.
There is nothing wrong with asking for a little help.
B. The same applies to aggressive messages we are about to respond to. Have a friend read it over to check whether we are about to start a war with someone at work or in your personal life. Again, the friend should be objective and able to help you reword your message and adjust your tone to communicate your concerns and feeling without going on the attack.
4. Put yourself in their shoes.
This is super hard to do, especially when we feel attacked or criticized. If we can bring ourselves to this space and take a step back, then we can try and step into the other person’s shoes to see why they are saying what they are saying. There is obviously a reason and many times it is simply a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of our words and actions.
Of course, we have to be just as thoughtful, if not more, for such a meeting, because if we don’t go into it with an open mind and humble heart, it may yield more negative results.
This may not always be possible for various reasons—the person is geographically too distant or just doesn’t want to communicate, but if it is possible, try to have a face-to-face discussion to explain yourself and understand his or her perspective.
Emails and texts can very easily be misunderstood and most of us are just trying to be understood.
There are many factors involved in healthy communication, however, a little thoughtfulness and patience can prevent us from a lifetime of regret and save us a lot of heartache.
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Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock