Sunday, September 21, 2014

That is not what I meant!
By: Joe P. Attanasio

This blog is about what people perceive you to have said.

When two people are talking face to face we communicate with words, actions, and expressions or body language.

Often our smile or grin tells the other person that we are being playful or kidding when we say something. Our eyes convey concern or the way we stand can show resolve. There are many ways we use our bodies to help communicate. We also read other people by observing their bodies. Often what they say is secondary to their body language for conveying their intentions.

The trouble is that in today’s world most of our communication is typed and sent in messages. There is no way to ensure that your words will be received in the same meaning that you intended when you wrote them.

As writers we may be more equipped to convey our meaning than a lot of other people but that is of little comfort when you are misinterpreted. The old adage “Assume means make an ass of you and me”, especially plays into written communication.

Many words have multiple meanings and assuming the writer means one thing when they meant another can throw a slant on a whole conversation. I have seen numerous Facebook posts with comments where one friend or acquaintance chastises someone for making a comment to another person based on what they assume the conversation meant.

Once seen (read) the words you posted cannot be unseen. We have a responsibility to choose our words carefully and scrutinize them for misinterpretation before posting. I think a little awareness in this area will go a long way toward ensuring people know what we meant to say.

Facebook contributes to the problem with their limited choice of buttons. Most people click LIKE to show they read a post. Clicking “like” does not always mean a person agrees with a post.

Another factor that I see come into play on Facebook is that many public posts should be private. By posting publicly people invite opinions and comments that can cause conflict and hard feelings. If you are going to say something publicly, be ready to own it and defend it is my advice.

Another point I want to address here is that behind the veil of relative anonymity or knowing you will never have to meet the people you are talking to in real life, many get a false sense of bravado.  In other words, people feel comfortable being rude and outspoken because they are detached personally. In my opinion, this is a poor excuse for acting any differently than you would in person.

Depending on their mood, people can interpret what you said to be totally different than what you meant. Misunderstandings have ruined many friendships and families.  

Let’s all make a conscience effort to think before we type.


Please feel free to check out my Blog archives for other posts.

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