I could write a book about this. Email and real life have very different purposes. Too many people don’t understand the distinction. Digital communication is only words. It’s limited to two dimensions, I don’t care how good of a writer you are. Even the most innocuous emails or texts sometimes can inadvertently be interpreted as offensive. Emoticons help, but sometimes even a smiley emoticon can seem like a belittling jab or an escape clause for someone who is too lazy to put care into their words. I use emoticons too much. It’s just something I’ve been doing since the beginning of the Internet, and taming my fingers to behave has been an uphill battle. They have their own mind in this regard.
I’m an introvert, so I’m not all about face-to-face. However, I acknowledge that for communicating it’s much more effective. Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice speak volumes.
My number one rule is: never send an angry email or text. That email will serve as fuel for conflict long after it should have been put to rest. Have the courage to face the person and tell them to their face. Plan out what you’re going to say in advance so that it’s constructive and meaningful. Be very clear, and make sure you know that they understand your side of a situation. Don’t scream at people unless you’re married to them and can cuddle up to them later. Most of the time walking away and letting it go is the best course of action to dissipating a possible world war.
I must confess that the last time my brother rode in my car, (before I decided to ban him) his nonsensical screaming at me about my driving triggered me to scream back at him, and the shock of my screaming back was enough for him to cool off and apologize. He still got banned because, well, dying in a car accident is not high on my priority list.
In business, never yell at co-workers. Yell up the chain only. And when you yell, it better be damned important. Again, this can’t be done in email! If your boss is remote, call him/her up and talk to them. If you can’t do that, then send them an email saying “I have to talk to you about something important” and let them come to you when they’re free. Cool off before yelling, but if it’s something important make sure you’re fired up enough to be firm about the issue.
In meetings be very attentive and present. Make notes. Think through any objections before speaking. Ask questions if you need something clarified, even if every one else is going along with the plan like sheep. If you’re still not clear, do your homework after the meeting. When you state an objection to something, you want people to listen to you, so you need to have the pros and cons lined up very succinctly. Only then can you compose a rational email with your objections and follow it up with one-on-one’s or another meeting. Respect is gained by intelligent thought and presentation.
I have my phone set to mute most of the time, mostly because I hate junk phone calls, but I also think most phone conversations are a total waste of time. “Hiiiieeeee, what’cha doin’? I’m soooo bored!” Meanwhile I’m banging my head on the table “You had to call me to tell me that?” I feel the same way about nonsense emails and texts. The only exceptions I’ve ever made in my life were when I was calling my Mother and Mother-in-Law daily. They’re both long past the ability to talk to me now.
I simply don’t have the patience for triviality. Surprisingly, though, it’s ok when I’m at parties where conversation is all about superficial chit-chat. I actually appreciate people who prattle on about themselves. It’s much easier to ask people about themselves than to share myself with them. As an introvert, I’m a listener.
I don’t do chats like AOL, but I will chat if I’m playing a roleplaying game. However in that case, I stay in character nearly 100% of the time. That’s fantasy and gametime for me. Again, I don’t want to know what you’re drinking or what your favorite music is. I stay away from people who insist on knowing all about who I am in real life. I don’t want friends, I want stories and plots. I want to be moved and inspired to collaborate.
Speaking of gaming — I will never ever make a hateful post, even if I were absolutely sure it was anonymous. I don’t know where online hate comes from, but it’s vicious and violent. Neither will I ever expose my real self for people to hate on, because 80% of the time they will, and it will hurt badly.
Blogging is different. Blogging is all about having a soapbox. It’s not a two-way communication, it’s more like a periodical where I am writer and editor. So there are no rules in blogging except: Do I want readers or not, and if so, what sorts of readers do I want to attract? That’s all.
How do you communicate differently online than in person, if at all? How do you communicate emotion and intent in a purely written medium?
It’s a Text, Text, Text, Text World