A few days ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who was very upset about a text message she received from someone she was dating. On and on she went over what it said…..and the “attitude and emotion” of the text.
Clearly there is no emotion in a text, and people certainly can’t read it if there is. In the fast-paced world we live in, it is not typical for us to stop and consider the power of context. It is easy to jump to a conclusion or interpret verbal and non-verbal communication negatively (or positively) when we don’t pause to consider alternative explanations. In my friend’s case she discovered, after further investigation, that she had jumped to conclusions based on her own filters. Like most of us, she interpreted the communication in a way that made it completely logical to be mad and willing to terminate this new found friend. After applying a few simple, seemingly obvious, steps she was able to restore the connection with her friend and learn a valuable lesson.
You may be thinking, “Obviously you can’t read emotion in text.” That is only part of the point here. The real point is, we never have all the information we think we have until we do two things: First – verify; then clarify.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Admit that you do not have total clarity in communication whether its inbound to you or outbound from you.
2. Whenever you receive communication that triggers a particularly noticeable positive or negative response, be certain to consider what other interpretations you might explore that could be true.
3. Verify with the person what you heard by using a communication channel other than the one used in the original message. If you got a text, pick up the phone.
4. Clarify what they meant. Do this by being completely neutral, without emotion. If you clarify emotionally you have already jumped to a conclusion.