Whether you are a tween, a teen, or an adult, you may have found yourself engaged in a heated argument after a text, an email, or an online comment that you wrote was misinterpreted by the recipient (or by others who saw it, even if they were not the intended recipients).
These miscommunications happen because texting and tweeting and online commenting all lack two key contextual clues: voice inflection and facial expression. Without the tone of your voice and the expression on your face adding richness and meaning to your comments, people can easily get the wrong impression.
Sarcasm translates particularly poorly into messaging form. As a result, you may fire off a comment that seems obviously funny to you, and 2 hours later, you are still wasting your time doing damage control with someone who took major offense because he or she interpreted the comment in a literal way.
These situations can deteriorate rapidly into cyberbullying, because an offended recipient can retaliate by sending a purposely cruel message in response, kicking off an attack that never needed to happen.
In trying to save time by using shortened electronic forms of communication, we often create situations where we lose time to miscommunications.
So what can we do?
- Add emotional context back into your messages and online comments, even by something as simple as adding an emoticon with a smiley face or a wink. Or try typing LOL to help make your intent clear. This helps replace the missing clues of inflection, tone, and facial expression.
- Think twice before sending or posting a comment intended to be sarcastic. Ask yourself if it might seem ambiguous or hurtful to the recipient, and if so, consider the possible consequences. Is it worth sending? Can you modify it slightly?
- Avoid using text messages as a way to resolve the conflict. Things move too quickly in the cyberdigital world, and if you are feeling angry and impulsive, you are at high risk of writing something you regret. It is ALWAYS better to resolve conflict in a phone call or a face-to-face conversation.
Keep these three tips in mind, and you can cut down on wasted time and hurt feelings! Good luck!
Carrie Goldman is the award-winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.