Communication–that tricky beast

I consider this a professional blog and don’t normally drag my private life into my posts. Today, though, something happened that I think we can all relate to, something that is an albatross around a lot of writers’ necks: communication breakdowns via email.

I had a bit of a spat with my boyfriend. Don’t worry, it didn’t involve anything sordid. Just my finger. I poked my eye with it. Yes, it was an accident. Yes, I am clumsy. Yes, I feel stupid.

As my eye was watering and burning and I was waiting for it to calm down, I checked my email. There was a message from said boyfriend asking if I could meet for lunch. I wrote back, “I’ve poked my eye and it hurts. Can we make it 1:45? I’m waiting for it to stop burning.”

He wrote back, “How did you poke it? We still have so many boxes to put away.”

We just moved in together, hence, the boxes. I thought he meant, “I hope your eye is okay because I need you to put those boxes away.”

What he actually meant was,  as I later found out, “I hope you didn’t poke it on one of my boxes, I’d feel guilty.”

I wrote back, “Are you joking?” Still thinking he wanted me to put the boxes away and had said nothing like, “Are you okay?”

He wrote back, “No joke.” Again, what he meant, which I didn’t find out till later was, “No joke. I’d feel bad if you poked your eye on one of my boxes.”

While what he really meant was not clear to me at the time of the email, I was not happy with him, thinking he was more concerned with his boxes being put away (which he needed to do, not me) than the status of my injured eye. I will leave out the details of the fight that ensued, but, it was short and only slightly fiery. Fortunately, through verbal communication we quickly resolved the issue. But it took a verbal, actually face-to-face to resolve it.

We have one thing clear in our romance. I am the writer. If a letter needs to be sent, I write it. He is ace at things that require talking. In fact, fighting is difficult with us, okay, for me, because he is so articulate that he usually wins. I I once had a brilliant idea to write a letter with my response to an argument we were having. I didn’t think this through: he responded verbally. He won.

Of course, I cheat and usually  end arguments, whether he wins or not, with, “Now apologize.” I may not be as quick on my toes as he is, but I am a marketer and know how to spin an argument. “Now apologize” implies that the did something wrong whether he did or didn’t.

Every professional knows that they  need to be clear in an email. It’s when we get lazy, when we are in a rush, when we don’t take a second to read back what we’ve written, that these mistakes happen. I am guilty of it, despite the fact that I read and sometimes reread what I’ve written. I slip up. I get rushed and hit send before I should, or, something that seems so clear to me because of context I understand, is missed on my reader.

Oh darn. I forgot to tell him, “Now apologize.” Gotta go. I have an email to send.

One response to “Communication–that tricky beast

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