Internet miscommunications



Social media, texting and emailing, in general written fast communication, is the perfect recipe for disaster in human communication. Cold short sentences denuded of the tone of voice of verbal communication or the visual cues of body language, are subject to anything the recipient may perceive it as for whatever reason.

For example, one person may put something out there on FB about which they feel very passionate about and have put tremendous work and effort in. Another person who happens to catch a glimpse of it, who at the same time is in the middle of some hectic task, notices something about that post on FB lets say, and wanting to help that person get a better result, types away one short sentence with direct question and/or feedback. The first person is taken aback from the direct feedback and advice and becomes offended and defensive, replying in an annoyed and accusing manner. The second person, reads the response but has no time to elaborate yet tries to explain why they wrote what they wrote in yet another short sentence.

That makes things even worse as now person No 1 has shut down completely to person No2 and cannot even begin to think where is No2 coming from, thus accusing them of being rude, inconsiderate and ignorant. Person No 2 now is getting pissed off, offended and frustrated as her original purpose which was to be of help by giving advice to person No1 for them to get better results was totally misunderstood andrejectedand is now getting defensive and passes on the attack to protect herself and defend her original intention.

Person No1 gets even more upset and shocked and lashes out openly to No2, attacking her personally. No2 being already stressed out by her task at hand and pressured by time decides that there is no way she can explain herself to No1 as she clearly refuses to listen to anything she has to say and decides that she might as well end the communication and relationship right then and there.

Had they been close friends, they might have valued their relationship more and tried to make more of an effort to resolve the misunderstanding and make amends, but they were simple acquaintances, the pressure to relieve themselves from the stress of the communication was stronger than their wish to work on whatever relationship they had up to that time.

This is quite a common situation in today’s world of email and social media communication, made worse by the busyness and lack of time of people. We see it in the work place every day with bosses firing off short, direct and sometimes snappy emails to their employees and them getting upset and offended, resulting in a very negative and tense atmosphere.

If one would ask the boss they would probably say they did not mean to offend anyone, but just needed a quick and immediate reply as they were inundated with emails they had to reply to for which they needed to have that information as soon as possible. If you asked the employee they would say that they took the way their boss ‘talked’ to them in that email as personally offensive and ignorant and that it caused them a lot of stress and tension and that they too felt they were inundated with work and couldn't respond to their bosses request or demands as fast as their boss would have liked.

With the exception of the cases of genuine bully bosses, the key theme here is that of the need not to take things personally. To have a basic level of trust in one another, understanding that each person is doing the best they can and are both under pressure.

If for example No1 had enough trust that No2 was coming from a basis of wanting to offer her help to have a better chance of success because she happened to have a long experience on the subject, she might not have taken the way No2 expressed that in written words so personally so as to feel personally attacked and offended.

If No2 on the other hand had had the patience and the time to communicate in a more elaborate and less direct way, perhaps No1 would have not felt that way. Her mistake was to assume that No1 would respond matter of factly, and not react as if personally attacked. The thing is that when both people are stressed out and feel passionate about an issue, it is very easy for red buttons to be pushed even if unintentionally.

Our fast paced electronic world, is putting so much pressure on us, that we end up miscommunicating with one another, getting to each other's throats, when in reality we are in the same boat, in different roles, struggling to do our very best.

Cultural differences often play a role in such instances too. People from some countries might value a soft, polite, indirect approach while people from other countries may value directness and efficacy instead and may get irritated when expected to walk on eggshells.

Totally different values and perceptions and a problem which is hard to deal with without having the time available for each individual to learn each other's norms and rules of conduct or even worse, believing that their attitude is the right one.

A lot of conflicts and misunderstandings could be resolved and not even happen at all, if we were more confident about ourselves and trusting of others. Unfortunately life is such that it teaches us to be suspicious and fearful of one another, defensive and rejecting in order to protect ourselves.

Furthermore few people are lucky enough to grow up under ideal circumstances and most of us carry to a greater or lesser degree some baggage that has affected or injured our sense of self, our self-esteem. The result being that we may either try to overcompensate by acting as if, or be unable to assert ourselves in a healthy and efficient manner, sometimes even alternating between two extremes.

The thing is do we have the time to care enough to work on ourselves and our relationships with others, or does our busy lifestyle get in the way and we end up brushing things off and moving on to the next battle, the next attack, the next rejection, the next misunderstanding, thus perpetuating the same pattern over and over in our lives?