Online Communication Can Be Tricky!

We all know that it can be tricky to communicate messages effectively online. As I’ve learned the hard way, some words put people on the defensive and sarcasm does not translate well.

Even worse is when you accidentally send an email message to the wrong person. Many companies have more than one “Julie Andersen” or “Sreenivas Reddy.” I made the mistake of sending a link to a humorous video full of cuss words to someone in Europe instead of sending it to the project manager sitting in an adjoining room. After realizing my stupidity, I sent the guy an email apologizing for sending an inappropriate link to someone I didn’t even know. I never heard back but I assume he wasn’t impressed.

Another thing about email messages is that I feel like I have to use more words and construct sentences with greater care to make sure they make sense. And without the direct response of someone saying “Yes” or “No,” I don’t always know if the message is clear until someone responds.

Normally I share tips for doing things better, but in this case, I’m clearly not the expert. I try to make sure my words will not offend or put people on the defensive. I try to share concrete details and examples instead of abstract items or opinions. And most importantly, I wait until I’m about to send the email message before I add the recipient’s email address (and I triple check to make sure I’m sending it to the correct person).

Here’s an example of a misunderstanding from one of my recent projects:

My project manager sent me an email message reminding me to preview a software simulation to make sure the resolution was correct.

All he said was “check the resolution.” Because the simulation was based on steps a user takes, I read that as needing to check the last step in the process to make sure it made sense and that it tracked back to the learning goals.

Did he say anything wrong? Nope! It was just a problem with my assumption. I didn’t realize he meant that I needed to check the simulation to make sure it was recorded with the correct screen resolution.

Even though we can do most things via email and I do because I work from home, there are moments when jumping on a call isn’t such a bad idea! Or meeting in person. And somehow showing what you mean if it still doesn’t make sense.

How about you? Any interesting auto-correct moments? Sent an email to the wrong person? Got into a flaming email war because sarcasm equaled anger?

One thought on “Online Communication Can Be Tricky!

  1. It’s bad enough when both parties speak the same language but the fireworks begin when language is only the first hurdle. And let’s not start on auto-correct… Online communication is fraught with danger, I tell you, fraught!

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