Hazards of Electronic Emotion

Ok – you open an email and someone is making critical observations or offensive accusations. They have copied in virtually every manager and practically all their staff. You are outraged and moved to respond immediately – strongly – Reply All. Or you check your Facebook Group and there is a comment that deeply offends your values. You think of a slap-down response and start typing. You hear of a public denouement and you think of a clever observation to Tweet.

Image: Fletcher Prince

Think. Think twice.  Are you correctly understanding the context and what they are saying? Do you really need to respond…now…like this?  Is this actually about you?

A comment you might make verbally in private can be forgotten or taken as it is given in a context, with all the benefit of body language and tone but whatever you put in writing on the web can be variously interpreted, re-sent and lives forever. It allows involvement in situations that would otherwise not be your business. Electronic emotion can escalate a situation unhelpfully.

The trouble with electronic communication is that it is flat – there is no facial expression and no voice tone. It’s hard to send or interpret nuances of meaning accurately.  The ability to respond immediately with electronic communication tools creates a false sense of urgency to respond quickly, which can lead to unwanted, unforeseen results. Further, it is hard to build personal relationships and develop real connection with electronic mediums alone, so electronic relationships are very vulnerable to miscommunication.

Even remarks made sincerely can be interpreted through the veil of pre-existing hang-ups, prejudices or any history of conflict or sense of inadequacy.

The bottom line is that electronic communication can be very convenient but you know it – be careful. Hold that quick typed response. If you must get a response off your chest, put it in Drafts without anyone in the address window and delete it tomorrow. If your smart comeback isn’t constructive, is it just about your ego? If the response can’t hold the high moral ground or dilute the tension – why go there.

Pick up the phone or walk around to their office and have a conversation where you can have the benefit of the other communication clues we humans use to build relationships and resolve conflict. Trust me. Avoid the pain.

Saleena Ham