Ever received an email or read a social network post that you either misinterpreted or felt was something that should not have been written down?

I think we have all been subject to this whether at work or in our personal lives, that situation where someone has used a keyboard to say something either to you or about you that maybe should never have been written down at all. Maybe it was just badly written or the author never thought about the consequences of what they were writing or the effect it may have on the person it was directed to or about.

This then creates the quick response issue, the fast read email and the reply that was not considered or proof read before sending starts a stream of communication that should never have been started and quickly turns into something much bigger that the originator ever intended. We are all guilty of this one.

Several years ago someone gave me the best piece of advice about writing things down “remember you are writing for the reader, not yourself”. This has stood me in good stead when communicating, but not everyone was given the advice. I would extend this advice a little further and urge all of us to follow some simple rules when writing anything down, especially in the digital

  • Always read back what you have written and consider if you would be happy to receive or see this written down
  • Would you say it to the person directly face to face, if the answer is not then don’t write it down
  • Can you justify what you are writing, if its criticism make sure you have the facts and the correct perspective and even then maybe it better to either not say it or to deliver the message verbally and in person
  • Do other people need to be involved in what you are posting, or is the message you are delivering better sent to just the person it involves
  • Write for the reader, uncomplicated words and easy to read messages get remembered
  • Something you find funny might not be considered humorous by all the recipients, again think of your audience.
  • Is it worth responding or better to ignore, if a response is required then verbally might be best

My point here is that we should not hide behind digital delivery to say something that might be awkward or difficult to deliver in person. We must keep communicating directly and not lose the skill of talking to someone and having a face to face or even a telephone conversation as opposed to sending an email that we could later regret. That thing in your pocket is more than a device to deliver text messages or email, it is also a phone and designed to allow us all to talk to each other.