Look Before Your Tweet

I have to admit, earlier today I had steam coming out of my ears. It was all because of an email that I received.  I felt attacked by the email and my instant response was to fire off a scathing email in return.  I actually wrote that scathing email. Thankfully I did not hit send. I got up, walked away and ran an errand.  While I was out, I actually received another email, that increased my frustration level.

So, I picked up the phone.

We have this natural born tendency to protect ourselves in the moment we feel under attack.  Whether we are talking about an email exchange or a series of tweets, written communication is so easily misunderstood.  On a daily basis, I see tweets exchanged with underlying tones of frustration and even anger.

Texting, social networks and even old school email are a great way to communicate but there are times when misunderstandings happen.  It is challenging to communicate tone and intention in a quickly fired off tweet, text or email.  What you may think is just a quick response and/or innocuous can be misconstrued as short, curt or downright rude.  This can lead to hurt feelings, anger and ultimately that can impact our relationships and our business deals.

In social networks, these communications not only impact the persons involved, but the open nature of the communication may trigger judgments by others seeing the conversations take place.  People who don’t understand the back story of the nature of your relationship with the person you are engaging with may make erroneous assumptions about what is being said.

In an in-person environment, we have the benefit of our mannerisms to explain our intentions.  A wink, a shrug or a hand gesture may explain our point.  Communications via the telephone, voice chat, and again in-person all benefit from the discussion around what is being said.

Quick electronic communications may magnify problems, especially if emotion is involved.  When communicating with words, we need to remember that intention is hard to portray in 140 characters or in a two-line text.  If you see a tweet, text, or email gone awry, pick up the phone.  Don’t keep trying to communicate in the venue that isn’t working. A quick phone conversation can often solve a problem that could easily blow up if it continues online.

If you are on the receiving end of the curt text or the seemingly rude email, step away for a minute.  Don’t respond in anger.  Realize the nature of the medium and the possibility that your interpretation of the message may be different then the intention.  Responding in anger is the quickest way to lose friends and business online.