Lost in communication
A word of caution and why emails can be bad for communication.
I sent an email yesterday and was stunned to find that someone took offence to it. When we discussed it, they had read it in a completely different way from what it was intended.
They had read what was meant as a supportive sentence as an accusatory one. I felt sick to the stomach that I had unintentionally upset them. But when we had a phone conversation to find out what went wrong, it was like a light bulb came on in both our heads.
We had both read exactly the same words but read them in a completely way due to the way we read them.
Thankfully, all was sorted out but do be aware of how our words come across and that the written word can be lost in communication.
What I mean by that is each person who reads it may glean a different understanding of what you have written depending on which word they put the inflection on.
Here’s a classic example. Take the following sentence which contains seven words:
I never said she stole money
Now read it putting the inflection on a different word each time and see how the meaning of the same sentence changes. It can be read with a different meaning in seven different ways!
- I never said she stole my money. This means they are stressing it was someone else who accused her. Not them.
- I never said she stole my money. This means they are stressing they never ever said that.
- I never said she stole my money. This means they never actually accused her of stealing money, or that they actually wrote it instead of speaking.
- I never said she stole my money. This means they never said it was the girl who stole the money, but someone else stole it.
- I never said she stole my money. This means they never said she explicitly stole it, but did something else with it like borrowed it.
- I never said she stole my This means they are stressing it was someone else’s money she stole, not theirs.
- I never said she stole my money. This means it wasn’t money she stole, but something else.
Their understanding could also differ depending upon what mood they are in. If they are feeling grumpy, they may read it in a negative manner. I know I have had to pull myself up before when I’ve been rushed and stressed and about to react negatively to a message. When I take a few deep breaths and re-read it, I have a totally different perspective.
If you have something important to say, pick up the phone or use a voice app. It may just save a very awkward situation.
Have you had an experience with emails causing bad communication? Share your experience in the comments below.