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The perils of e-miscommunication

June 04, 2010|By BARTON GOLDSMITH / Scripps Howard News Service

With e-mail, texting, Twitter, BBM, social-networking sites and all the other forms that modern technology has created for communication -- and miscommunication -- there are bound to be texts, tweets and touch screens that have led to the end of friendships, to broken hearts and even to job losses.

It seems that we have little tolerance (or is it understanding?) for how these seemingly innocuous blips of information can be taken out of context and offend the recipient.

If it is caught immediately and appropriate apologies are made sooner rather than later, both people should be able to shake hands (or bump iPhones) and move forward. Unfortunately, when a remark triggers someone's unhealed emotions, it can create a short circuit that will make him or her shortsighted. Pain is felt, and a retort is locked on target and fired. When a direct hit is made, a relationship that was positive and promising can unintentionally dissolve quicker than an Altoid.

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We also need to understand that these electronic methods of communication are not the best, as they don't convey true emotions, your idea of cute may not be the other party's and sometimes we just don't get one another.

We have all regretted things we have said to those we care for, and if it happens rarely, then we need to learn to apologize, take it in stride and move on. My suggestion is that you get together face-to-face -- or at least via iChat or Skype -- so you can see each other's expressions and have a conversation looking into each other's eyes. If that can't happen, then a phone call is the next-best option.

If the other person refuses to communicate, write an e-mail telling the story from your point of view. Even if you don't send it, you are getting it straight in your mind and also getting it out of your head. It will, at the very least, let you release some of your pent-up hurt and help you understand yourself, which will better allow you to understand the person with whom you had the miscommunication. Steven Covey said it best in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": "Seek to understand before being understood."

There are people who live their lives by FBO (that's Facebook official). This is the way communication is moving: if your romantic status changes and you don't announce it on Facebook, your potential new partner could feel slighted. Some people have even announced plans to divorce on social-networking sites before telling their soon-to-be-exes. This is real stuff, folks, and it's causing too much hurt.

We need to start being more aware of how our electronic communications are received. Think to yourself (before you hit the "send" button) about how the other person will take your message, and how that response will make you feel.

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