Does the digital medium make us mad? Angry-mad? What do we do when the content starts to SHOUT AT US? BTW I’m doing this post in Five Minutes, unedited.
I was told once that communication is [some massive*] % non-verbal. That means, what I say is the last thing you hear. You ‘hear’ my body language. My tone of voice. My expression. My flared nostrils and my frowny expression. You ‘read’ the whites of my eyes. You react to my twitching foot, my edginess. Any good novel will paint a million giveaways in the prose to show how someone is feeling. Not via the dialogue, but via the tell-tale ‘signs’.
Email, of course, strips us of these signs. We are left to guess, to infer between the lines, whether that brusque and direct statement was one of impatience or one of anger. Perhaps it was urgent, and one of compassionate concern. Perhaps it was lazy. Perhaps it was critical and condemning. We can fail to accurately discern, and one sentence can now mean a thousand things.
It’s common to respond via the same channel, and we can be tempted to email straight back, reactively. It’s the most ‘efficient’, speedy method to deal with it. But we don’t take the time to go to the person who’s just sent this ambiguous email, to read the rest of the message. Perhaps they even chose to email me in order to avoid looking into my eyes as they made their confrontational statements. Perhaps they’re genuinely afraid of me, and feel too intimidated to let their feelings be known to my face.
If I don’t email back, but meet with them, am I approaching them with my ‘believe-the-best’ foot forward? Giving the benefit of the doubt? Innocent until shown guilty?
It’s no wonder we’re getting in a muddle with our conflict management – conflict is hard enough to negotiate when we do it face to face, or with neutral support, and taking the time to read all the extra subtle signals that come with being in the same physical space.
‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’ (John 13.35)
and ‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.‘ (Ephesians 4)
Making every effort, I think, means meeting face to face to find out what was really meant. I strongly suspect that lazy reactions via email or a Facebook comment won’t hold out much hope for true love and true reconciliation.
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