Friday, August 24, 2012

Communication: Before You Click Send

Communication: Before you click send

By Christine I. Speakman

There once was a time when we would sit with pen and paper crafting our words. Sharing ourselves with someone through carefully written thoughts and expressions. I remember writing to my brother and sister-in-law in Scotland, talking TO them through my letter, certainly not AT them.

As a secretary, I wrote letters to businesses all the time. Even if I had a friendly relationship with these men and women, each letter was formal, precise, and above all polite. More so if information or money was being demanded.

Now we have emails, text messages, tweeting, facebooking, any number of social networks in which to reach family, friends, co-workers, customers, anyone. Some businesses, the eBook Publishing industry, are done almost completely via computer technology. Our individual worlds are enlarging as the world draws closer. Communications are reaching us faster, anywhere, any time, and they’re becoming blunter.

Has the art of communication been lost? Have our communication skills been irreparably harmed by technology?

Let’s take a side trip to phone calls. I love call display. As soon as I see the person’s name I’m ready to answer. If it’s someone close to me, I’ll sometimes jump in with a laughing voice of…whatcha want? Or, hey you. Business or my child’s school calling…little more formal, little more curious. Telemarketers…polite witch-mode.

Same when an email arrives. I see the sender’s name and that sets my reaction. Reading the words, their phrasing, will either drain, lighten, heighten, or set my response on fire. Surely, the sender didn’t mean to come across cold, condensing, holier than thou? That snide remark was an attempt at humour, right? Was that an ultimatum?

Text has no expression; no tone; no life. Text is exactly how you see it…words on a screen. Words have power. They are uncompromising and clear. They’re a two-edged sword.

Let’s take the simple line: That’s stupid.

How do you read this? Do you add weight to one or both words?  THAT’S stupid. That’s STUPID. THAT’S STUPID. Do you read in a monotone? that’s stupid.  Is there a lilt to your inner voice which gives this a light-hearted tone? Or was your last communication filled with anger?

The recipient or multi-eventual recipients will read governed by the words, the phrasing, their directness.

Earlier I typed “to” and “at” in capitals. This was for emphasis. Normally, in writing, emphasis is either with italics or quotes, something to set apart that which you want noticed. In today’s cyber communication caps, words typed all in capital letters, mean yelling. How many times have you used caps without realizing you’ve just yelled…screamed at someone?

Pay attention. Remember when fingers fly across the keyboard, they’re not just words racing across the screen.  


Chris Speakman is an Acquisition Editor for MuseItUp Publishing,

Reach her at or Tweet her @MuseChrisChat

Christine Irene Steeves – writer:
by Christine I. Steeves
Sweet Romance


Margaret Fieland said...

Christine, I learned by accident that it's also important not to blindly "reply all," ironically, by NOT replying to everyone. The email could have proved embarrassing to the recipient if I'd copied the whole group.

ChrisChat said...

Hi, Margaret.

Sorry I just found your comment.

Exactly, yes. One of my biggest email worries. I triple check and then check again at times when I'm replying.

Have had the opposite happen, too. Didn't reply to all and then had to repeat to everyone else.

Important point, thanks for sharing


J.Q. Rose said...

This mis-understanding just occurred with my best friend this week. Thank goodness we are close enough friends to realize the phrasing was off a problem. Your post is a good reminder.

ChrisChat said...

Thanks, J. Q.

It's so easy for these mis-understandings to happen. I've experienced people coming back and saying "but that's not what I meant." However, it can be difficult to take back the wrong words.

If someone types...I'm no longer _______. It's a little difficult to read it any other way.

Glad you and your friend were able to straighten it out.

Thanks for sharing