Monday, August 20, 2007

Homer & Me

For the love of email is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager to send email, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (PIV - Phillips International Version).

OK, you probably figured out that this isn't what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. But, when you replace the word MONEY with the word EMAIL, you see how applicable this statement can truly become in today's culture of cyber-communication.

I'd have to say that email is both the greatest thing and the worst thing at the same time. Obviously, the positives of email far outweigh the negatives. But, the worst of the negatives likely are more damaging than the good caused by the most beneficial aspects of communicating by email. This is a lesson I have learned - and continue to learn - the hard way. There are some things you cannot escape when communicating by email:
  • You often have no idea of the tone with which the email is composed. Is the sender kidding? Are they in a bad mood? Have they taken their medication today?
  • We often do not take into account #1, so we immediately fire off responses without carefully thinking through them. This can do one of two things: perpetuate an already intense situation or create one that didn't exist in the first place.
  • When we hit the "send" button on email, we cannot get it back (OK - sometimes, if we are really quick and it's an internal email, we can retrieve and delete it - but that is rare).
I have adopted a new phrase that sums up #1-#3 above. It's called Homer Simpson Syndrome. Whenever Homer does something foolish, he utters one famous word/ sound: D'OH! And, most of the time when I am rash in my email communication, this is the sentiment I am forced to live with.

What are some wise alternatives to foolish email communication?

  1. The best advice I have been given is to "sleep on it" before I fire off a scathing email. Tough to do, but worth it!
  2. Just pick up the phone and call the person. You may find out immediately that the sender meant no harm at all in the email they composed. And, you'll come out looking like the good guy.
  3. Give the sender the benefit of the doubt (unless they are copying your best friends, family, boss, etc. - then all bets are off, baby!)
  4. Don't respond at all. This is the toughest thing to do, because we are programmed to defend ourselves to the death. But, unless it's a major issue, letting it "die" is probably not a bad idea.
  5. Always look at the time stamp on an email when multiple emails are being exchanged. All too often people either read or receive emails out of sequence. When this happens, things get messy.
Read these timeless words from King Solomon - the wisest man to ever live - and let them resonate this week, whether communicating via email or face-to-face with others:

A truly wise person uses few words;
a person with understanding is even-tempered.

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT)

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