How To Avoid Being Misunderstood On Email Or Social Media In 5 Minutes
Posted on March 20, 2017
I recently shared a YouTube link from a colleague, on Facebook, and a childhood friend of mine responded to my post with an emoticon I hadn’t seen before. There were no words with his post, just these two googly eyes. My interpretation of his reply was that he was being suggestive in regards to what I had written about my post. Without thinking, I sarcastically responded that he should, “keep it clean, please!”
Shortly after that exchange, another Facebook friend chimed in and let me know that I had not attached the YouTube link to my original post like I thought I had. Moments later, my falsely accused “suggestive” friend shared he was referring to that, as well, when he posted his googly eyed emoticon.
What I perceived as someone’s mind being in the gutter, turned out to belong to none other than yours truly. Apologies were made to my friend, however, I couldn’t help but feel like I should thank him for this experience. I had to ask myself, how many times has this happened before and I didn’t realize it? What if the messages that I have read and perceived to be in a negative tone really weren’t meant that way?
In a world of immediate and endless communication options, how do we know if our message is being effectively understood and not causing unintended damage? We can’t control how everyone perceives our words at a given time, but we can do our best to try and see it through their eyes before we put it in front of them.
Just as you tailor your services or products to meet the needs of your clients, you also want to do the same with your messages. Regardless of the platform that you are communicating, i.e., email, blog, social media post, if you use this process when creating a message, you can avoid some of the pitfalls of miscommunication:
- State the objective of the message right away and be as brief and succinct as possible.
- This is your “hook”. The first thing we do when reading something is determine, within a second or two, whether we are going to invest a third second. Two things need to happen; the message needs to be something the reader is motivated to read, and there needs to be an understanding of how much time it’s going to take. Example: I believe I can solve your problem, but I need 3 pieces of information from you. This should take about 5 minutes of your time.
- When using examples or providing supportive evidence, use information that your audience can relate to.
- Think about your examples from their perspective. This will help you communicate in ways that make sense to your audience.
- Incorporate ways to convey your emotion at appropriate times.
- Match your tone to your message. Use words, symbols, salutations and niceties together whenever possible. Never assume your reader understands your intention.
- Design a method to check-in with your audience to ensure they understand the meaning of your message.
- Ask a question or call for action, which will prove that the reader has understood your intention and is engaged if and when they respond.
- Don’t be so fast to hit SEND.
- I know someone who rarely sends emails or memos immediately after writing them. At the very least she would proof read it as objectively as possible, and go as far as to wait 24 hours before sending an email she wrote with a negative tone. The reader is not privy to all of the information that is in our heads, or the emotions we have while writing; therefore, always give yourself a chance to review your message with a fresh eye before sending.
In this case it seems that the old rules still apply; check your work, count to 10 before responding when you’re angry, and it’s not about us, it’s about them.
If you would like to read more tips on this topic, check out Laura Vanderkam’s 5 Ways To Avoid A Massive Email Misunderstanding.