Saturday, November 04, 2006

Conceptually Clear Communication Confusing

As I was munching on leftover pizza for breakfast, sipping on lukewarm coffee (breakfast of champions dontcha know), I was catching up on my easy reading. I receive random magazines sent to me, I subscribe to none. Long story how it began and not to the point.

Anyway, I use casual meals like breakfast or lunch or a combo deal like today (and many days where I do not eat until 11am at which point it's barely reasonable to consider it breakfast) to read through the magazines that fall through my mail slot. I am always a few months behind and that's with a major pruning upon delivery (there are many reasons for the paper bag that lives under the mail slot!).

As I flip through the pages of Real Simple's July issue (see?) I stumble upon an article titled, "Friendly Fire" about friendships and what to do if a friend acts in a manner that makes you crazy, anger, etc. There is a sidebar (on page 112 for those following along in their textbooks) with the heading "Mixed Messages" and it's about email! Quel surprise.

Some quotes:
"Think your e-mail message are crystal clear? Think again."

Well I happen to think that I am very clear in the written form and I would think my 10 readers would agree.

"In a recent study participants sent and received two groups of e-mail messages-half meant to be sarcastic, and the other half intended to be sincere. The recipients misinterpreted the messages' tone 50% of the time."

Well that certainly takes the wind out of my sails, how about yours?

In another study: "senders were sure their meaning was clear 75 percent of the time, while the recipients had no doubt they had interpreted the e-mails correctly on average 90 percent of the time. In other words, both groups were oblivious to their mistakes."

I don't know about you but it is almost enough to make me consider getting off this email-go-round just use the phone. Almost. The truth is it would be hard for me to go back to the days without email. Why? Because I use it to stay in touch with people who are far away. I'm much to lazy to write an actual letter. It's cheaper than the phone and not dependent on anyone being home when you ring them up.
Via email, or more specifically email lists I have met some amazing people who are family to me, some I haven't even met in person - the magic of communication. Really it is not so odd when you think how people used to woo by letter to people they never met, travel hundreds of miles and marry the person. Hey, wait that still happens only they type the letters and they get magically sent over this thing called "The Internet".

Did I have a point in all this? Recently there has been a bit of a brouhaha over on "the list that I love but dare not name" over just this sort of thing as well as netiquette and some other issues. They all get tangled up but a great deal can be summed up by the concept that we misread the tone of email at an alarming rate. The comfort I took from this article is that over at "TLTILBDNN" we are normal, fatally human as it appears. We truly are a particularly brilliant bunch but we still misread each other, assume a bit too much, and take offense when we ought to inquire before firing off a response based on what we thought some one meant. Communication is hard work. Really hard. After this email I think I need a sundae. Anyone care to join me?


Rabbitch said...

A sundae? A SUNDAE??? And just ~what~ did you mean by that, missy?

(strawberry, please)

Jwebbal said...

I will take a hot fudge sundae with bananas and nuts, ice cream can be vanilla or coffee.