The other day I received an email I would have sworn had venom pouring out of it. Offended, I let it fester. A little later I asked my husband to read it, knowing his reaction would match mine. He would jump to my defense in the apparent brewing conflict. But, amazingly, his response to the words was completely different. He was puzzled by my (over)reaction.

Obviously “he didn’t read it right,” so I read the email—out loud—with every ounce of presumed snarkiness I could muster, emphasizing the words I thought clearly evinced the writer’s not-so-well hidden antagonism. Still he didn’t hear it. The exercise nearly started a battle between us, but eventually I realized his unbiased opinion was legit. My head cooled, saving me from sure embarrassment and a follow-up apology, which would’ve been necessary if I’d acted on my initial gut reaction.

Advancements in technology have expanded the ways we send messages and communicate, no eye contact required. Consequently, this multitude of platforms is fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding. People get their feelings hurt when you like one person’s social media post but not theirs. A text message conveys an insensitive lack of enthusiasm. The tone of an email is brusque, causing the recipient to question your motives.

We are all busy, but if the conversation is worth having, then it is worthy of time to consider word choices, tone, and platform before you hit send.

 

Enter the emoji—the newest way to shortcut our expression of any and all emotions.  If you are struggling to convey the right feeling, there’s a cartoonish digital image for that.

Seriously? I enjoy emojis as much as the rest of you, but I am not sure what sentiment 90 percent of them are meant to express. My preference, when possible, is a face-to-face conversation, whether chatting, challenging, consoling, or commiserating. Discussing something in person does not guarantee the exchange will be free of misunderstandings. But when talking person-to-person, you have a better shot at knowing if you’ve crossed a line or if your words or tone are misconstrued. You have an immediate option to correct any confusion and stand a better chance of avoiding missteps altogether.

Whether communicating via email, text, or social media, be aware that your message may lack needed tone, emotion, or inflection, and might come across as artificial, or be completely misinterpreted. We are all busy, and the temptation to send a quick text with a few emojis is strong. But if the conversation is worth having, then it is worthy of time to consider word choices, tone, and the appropriate messaging platform before you hit send.

A thoughtful voicemail, a letter from a cherished friend, or a conversation with a loved one—no red heart exclamation point or smiley face can replace that.

I’m here if you need me. Until then, y’all behave.