The other day, I was texting a good friend of mine. Off and on over the years, we have promised to get together for lunch, and I thought now was a good time to initiate that get-together. It started harmlessly, with a couple of simple text exchanges. I was trying to get him to come to a party, and when he couldn’t make it, I texted the following:
“Sorry to miss you. Throw out dates for lunch because I’ve been hearing about this lunch for a few years now.”
Sounds harmless enough. Here was his reply:
“No problem. Please do not text me again. Kindly take me off of your business-emailing list as well.”
Stunned, and somewhat bewildered by the response, I looked at the text a few times. I asked myself, “What in the world just happened here?” One thing I was quite sure of: My intention was certainly not to offend him, but by his response, I knew that I had definitely offended him.
Having been instructed not to text him again, I sent him a quick email. It was short, and sweet:
“Did I offend you?! That certainly wasn’t my intention. If I did – my apologies. Just looking for a lunch date.”
It turned out that I did offend him. He kindly apologized and told me he thought telling him, “Throw out dates for lunch,” meant, “I know longer wanted to see him for lunch!” Thankfully, once he read my email, and reread the text, he understood my true intent, and all was quickly forgiven.
This little exchange amplifies two important communication challenges. The first involves texts and emails. It’s a terrific way to communicate, but one huge flaw that plagues the world of written communication is intent. We can write one thing, but what’s perceived on the other end can be dramatically different. The relationship history can be a factor, and your mood can also be a factor, but there is something bigger that is operating here. We text and email a person with our words, but they can’t hear the tune in which it was intended. There is no sense of pitch, no sense of pace, and there is no sense of pause behind the words. The words you write just land with no real direction or intent, and are open for interpretation.
This exchange demonstrates a second communication issue that does not involve texts or emails. When we speak without passion or commitment, we run the risk of running into the same problem. Our words are stale, and not only is our intent open for interpretation, but so is our credibility.
When it comes to writing texts or emails, my only suggestions are to keep them short, look them over carefully, take a deep breath, and roll the dice. But when it comes to verbal communication, you want to make sure you don’t run the same risk of misinterpretation. You need to focus on more than just the words, but also the way you deliver those words. I call the way you say your words – your cadence, your pauses, and your intonation – the tune.
There are clear, process behaviors, along with measurable tools, available for learning the tune. I’m proud to tell you these tools are available in the book, Why People Don’t Believe You. It is now available at bookstores, and available at Amazon in paperback, E-Book, audio book, and CD versions!