The Written Language
It’s how we do the majority of our communicating these days – text, email, instant messaging – it’s all written and all too easy to misinterpret the meaning behind the words. Think about it, how often have you sent someone a message only to find out that you have unknowingly offended them?
When we speak to one another we convey meaning through our tones and body language. But when you write a message, who knows how the person on the other end will read it? The message is skewed by the reader’s tone, and their mood at the time of reading it. It is so easy to offend people these days, so you never know how someone will react to a message. Probably the reason I feel the need to include a smiley face in every email I have sent recently.
It’s something that we are all on the giving and receiving end of throughout every day. I have spent significant amounts of time crafting messages to people to ensure they will not misinterpret the meaning of my message, and still have them misunderstand where I am coming from. It can be a bit exhausting.
The challenge is that we all have our own way of speaking and choosing our words. When we get a message from someone we then interpret the message in our own heads, in our own voice. This makes it easy to misunderstand what someone means, because we are filling in the blanks of how the sender is feeling, acting, and what they are meaning with our own imagination.
Add on top of that our use of abbreviations, and all chance of understanding goes out the window. I type ‘k’ meaning ‘okay’ as a short form and my fiance reads it as ‘k’ being dismissive and unhappy with whatever came in the message before. More like I am saying ‘Fine whatever’. One letter alters the course of the conversation. What about ‘lol’? When was the last time you included that in a message where you actually laughed out loud? I tend to put ‘lol’ out of habit more than anything. When I find something really funny, I opt for ‘hahaha’. Others might follow entirely opposite ways of conveying laughter or enjoyment of a message (especially older generations that don’t entirely grasp text speech).
Even time of receiving a message can even be a factor in our interpretation of meaning. “Hey, Whats up?” can be read in two entirely different ways if sent at 2:00 PM vs. 2:00 AM.
There may not be a simple solution here, but going a bit easier on each other would be a good place to start. Try to not read messages assuming the worst. Consider that the person on the other end has their own way of choosing their words, and that their tone may not be as it seems in your head. Remember that we are all navigating this mine field of written words together!
What do you think? Anything we could do to stop misinterpreting each other? Share your stance in the comment section below!