Hasty communication can break relationships and ruin careers. Too often we write an email or send a text without double-checking the content or being mindful of the tone of the message. We have no idea how that message will get interpreted. Once you hit the "send" button, it's kind of too late. Here are some communication tips that will keep us from burying our head in our hands. The following five recommendations are coming from my own personal communication blunders.
1. Don't write emails or texts when you are angry
During moments of anger, our mind and intelligence become clouded. We become heated and just the way clouds cover the sun, our emotions cover our ability to think rationally. Such a heated frame of mind won't usually lead to a positive or productive message and can only make things worse.
2. Hold Your Horses
If you get a message that seems to be accusing or criticizing you, don't respond right away. We don't like to be accused or blamed for anything. The moment we feel someone pointing a finger at us, we become defensive and reactive. When something like this happens, I like to let it sit for a day before responding. I want to make sure that I have calmed down so I can see with clarity. Perhaps it wasn't as much of an accusation as I thought it was. Don't be too eager to give them a "piece of your mind."
3. Get an objective opinion
A. If you have a trustworthy and objective friend, have them read the message you received and see if it's as bad as you thought it was. I'm lucky to have such a friend who usually presents a much calmer perspective on the message than the one my mind came up with. A friend who sees the message in exactly the way you see it won't be of much help. Rather, he or she may only aggravate the situation.
B. The same applies to aggressive messages you are about to respond to. Have a friend read it over to check whether you are about to start a war with someone at work or in your personal life. Again, the friend should be objective and able to help you reword your message and adjust your tone to communicate your concerns and feeling without going on the attack.
4. Try to see where the other person is coming from
This is super hard to do especially when we feel attacked or criticized. If we can bring ourselves to this space and take a step back, then we can try and step into the other person's shoes to see why they are saying what they are saying. There is obviously a reason and many times, it is simply a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of our words and actions. Of course, we have to be just as thoughtful, if not more, for such a meeting, because if we don't go into it with an open mind and humble heart, it may yield more negative results.
This may not always be possible for various reasons -- the person is geographically too distant or just doesn't want to, but if it is, try to have a face-to-face discussion to explain yourself and understand his or her perspective. Emails and texts can very easily be misunderstood and most of us are just trying to be understood.
There are many factors involved in healthy communication, however, a little thoughtfulness and patience, can prevent us from a lifetime of regret and save us a lot of heartache.