March 31, 2008

Technological misunderstandings

We live in a world filled with technology. Email, instant messaging, and text messaging are some of the main mode of communication for many people. At work, I communicate to almost everyone via email. There are many people who I have never met in person but know quite well through email from working so closely with them. I would email a person a question rather than picking up a phone. I can work occasionally work from home because I have availability to my email. It is amazing how email has infiltrated not only my work life, but also my personal life. I "talk" to many of my friends via email more often versus the phone. I communicate to family via email as well.

I remember a world without email and it is amazing to think that the kids growing up today have no idea what a world without email is like (wow, that sentence just made me sound really old). Email can be such a great thing. Communication with people from around the world is basically free, no worries about international phone bills. You can communicate with people at all hours of the day without worrying about waking them in the middle of the night. You can conduct business in any time zone and work with people around the world at any time of the day. The possibilities of technological communication are endless.

Unfortunately, the possibility of technological misunderstanding is also prevalent. Misunderstandings can very easily occur via email. I recently experienced a misunderstanding at work because of an email that I sent. Basically someone (someone very important) mistook my email to mean something else that I had not intended for it to mean. This was not a good thing. It all worked out but it definitely got me thinking.

In emails or any other type of technological communication, people can misunderstand the meaning of emails, they may take certain things to be sarcastic or condescending or filled with different intentions. In the professional world, you especially have to be careful with how emails are distributed and worded. Your tone of voice can't be heard in email. Email communication can't convey that type of nuances that verbal communication can. It can be very easy to misinterpret an email. I try to be very careful with the emails I send out, I am careful to make sure that emails are professional and sincere. The written word is even more important than you'll ever know. Even though email is electronic there is still a "paper" trail of information, so professionalism is ever so important.

It is so easy to quickly write an email and click on send. Sometimes you do have to be cautious, but there have still been many times when I have clicked the send button a little too soon. When I have forgotten to attach an attachment or accidentally copied a person on the email who was not intended to receive the correspondence. Ooop! You have to exercise some caution with the world of email, you never know when an email may end up in the wrong mailbox or may be viewed by eyes they were not intended for.

I was recently copied on an email from my former employer. The email was in regards to an employee's HR information, the email was intended to be confidential yet made it into my mailbox and I hadn't worked for them in 4 years! I responded back letting them know I had accidentally received the email and it was a nice opportunity to say hi, but definitely not information they wanted to share with me.

There are various tips on email etiquette on the Internet. Most pertaining to style of writing and what not. The most important tip of all is to proofread! Make sure that the email is in the tone you want to get across and communicates what you intend for it to communicate before you click on send. Once you click send, it is off in cyberspace and you can't do anything about it.

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1 comment:

  1. So true. I offended a mgr awhile back while making a "joke". How is it my fault they lake in the sense of humor dept.? Blah.