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communication on the internet: making it work

Yesterday, some of the neighborhood kids were playing at our house. One little girl’s family hails from the Caribbean, her name is Elie and she’s in the 1st grade. She was happily exploring our play kitchen, when my daughter (2) tossed her shoes off the couch without looking and one of them ricocheted off of Elie’s arm.

Sophie said she was sorry, and then my son, Jack (also 2), ambled over and started asking Elie if she was all right. But his two year-old language skills haven’t really mastered the evasive ‘R’ sound, so it sounded like this, “Are you all wite?’ To which Elie replied matter-of-factly, “No, I’m brown.”

I love that our children are not nearly as fazed by color as older generations – it is truly heartening and shows that we are, in fact, moving forward (that along with the first African-American presidential nominee!)

But the scenario, after I stopped laughing, made me think about the miscommunications that happen online via email, blogs or social media – when we aren’t necessarily missing the ‘R’ sound, but we are all so culturally different and may be missing social skills or losing the natural politeness inherent in face-to-face interactions because we’re shielded by the computer screen.

And in these political times, I can’t help but think of all of this and not relate it to Sarah Palin, John McCain and their campaign slinging hate towards Barack Obama; hiding not behind the internet, but rather behind the shady curtain of the Right flank that surrounds them.

For us interneters, here’s my list on how to avoid miscommunications online (and off):

  1. If you are smiling, laughing, being sarcastic, etc. within your message, put a symbol or actually include your written intention. Don’t expect people to guess.
  2. As the receiver, ASK if you are confused. Just the other day someone sent me a message that sounded rather mean, so I asked. She was glad I did and we had a great exchange. (She wasn’t mad at all)
  3. Know your audience.
  4. Always be nice. I would never ask you to compromise your passion, your beliefs and your right to sing them bravely out loud – but, you can never go wrong with kindness and respect (it will probably get you even farther).

Let’s end with this: Speak clearly and carry an open mind, a kind heart & endless ideas for progress.

Have a great weekend, people! I’ll be in Vermont in a house with…(cue scary music)…DIAL-UP (the horror, the horror).

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • --Deb says:

    Because even innocent miscommunication can be deadly! (Sometimes literally!)

  • Julie Roads says:

    What an intense comment, Deb! But, sadly true…

  • I’m a firm believer in the Modified Thumper Doctrine- If you don’t have something nice to say, at least laugh a little to cover it up. :)

    Great post, Julie!

  • Julie Roads says:

    That’s a good one, Jamie. Smiles and laughter – great social diet. Thanks!

  • Kacey says:

    There is a lot of miscommunication on the internet, isn’t there? It’s so easy to read more…or less…into someone’s comment. As for a weekend with dialup?? You have my condolences!

  • Lorie says:

    Great suggestions! Email is such a hard way to communicate feelings and intentions.

  • Well said Julie! It is so hard to determine emotion and intent online (or on text messages!) We know what we mean when we type but we forget how hard it is to interpret just reading the words. We all need to work on showing ALL of what we mean! :) (I’m not too good at the smiley thing but I’ll add that one in to show I’m happy!)

  • Lea says:

    Love this one, Julie. As a professional communicator, sometimes I feel I’m this crazy, obsessed person, parsing messages and trying to crack another’s “code.” You’re right — it’s best just to ask. And be clear from the get-go. Hooray for emoticons (used sparingly, of course)! :)

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