Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Careful, Flames Can Burn (Relationships, that is)

Social interaction has certainly changed over the years. Sarcasm, for instance, is commonplace in many conversations, but this wasn’t always the case. Now that the Internet provides a way to communicate by typing, all of the cues provided in speech and body language are lost.

One commonly used statistic is that in communication only 7 percent of the meaning is gained from the actual words. Roughly 38 percent comes from vocal cues and the remaining 55 percent from facial expressions. This implies that only very basic literal meaning can be gleaned from a typed message.

Who cares? Well, the person you just emailed might. In a New York Times essay, Daniel Goleman explains, “if we are typing while agitated, the absence of information on how the other person is responding makes the prefrontal circuitry for discretion more likely to fail” (Flame First, Think Later: New Clues to E-Mail Misbehavior, February 20). This means your message may be interpreted differently than you intended. You may have inadvertently offended the recipient because you were unable to alter your speech based on their reactions.

Routine communications have changed with technology. Take the absence of nonverbal cues and add the factor of people feeling less inhibited behind their computers, then there is a whole new dynamic to human interaction.

Before you hit send, read your message to make certain it is clear. It’s just good practice anyway.