Watch What You Write

We have all heard “watch what you say.” I can’t say with certainty but I’d bet my mom was the first person to say it to me. 

We all know that once something is said there is no way to “unsay” it and the effects of one ill timed comment can last a very long time.

So, most of the time anyway, we are careful with the words we choose and the tone in which we say them. Sometimes we are so “careful” that we decide not to “say” words at all, we write them. 

There was a time, ages ago as I recall, where we found some paper and something to write with and we took the time to really write out our thoughts, on paper, and then in one fashion or another, deliver the paper to the intended person.

Oh, the good ol’ days!

I think the time it took to find the paper, find a pen or pencil, address the letter, and mail it saved us a lot grief. That time allowed us to really consider our words, to carefully think about how our words might “sound” to the person reading them. 

Today, we can zip off an email in literally seconds. We type out the first thought that comes to mind and let ‘er rip! Email, and even worse, text messages, have become a “damn the torpedoes, full stream ahead” kind of communication. We write what’s on our mind, exactly what’s on our mind because we can. 

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be honest in our electronic communications, what I am saying is that they should be written exactly as if you were going to read it to the person face-to-face. That thought alone would slow a lot of us down.

We need to realize that even our writing has a “tone” and that “tone” is very often misunderstood by the person reading our message. It would also help if we accepted FULL responsibility for our message and didn’t lay blame on the other person for misunderstanding us. 

Push yourself to be a better communicator. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how will they interpret my message? Use many of the same verbal communication “rules” you use today. Don’t always say the first thing that comes to mind and don’t say it when you’re angry. 

If you think it would be a bad idea to say it out loud then you should also realize that it is actually even worse to put it in writing. People might only hear you say something once but they can read your words over and over and over. 

Which brings me to my final point. Don’t be a chicken writer! Don’t use email, and for heavens sake, don’t use text messages for difficult conversations. Deliver tough news in person where the other person can feel your empathy. 

Parts of you, the real authentic you, often has a hard time escaping your writing. No matter how good your writing skills are they will never be as good at delivering your message as you will be in person. 

14 thoughts on “Watch What You Write

  1. LOVE that you said, “If you think it would be a bad idea to say it out loud then you should also realize that it is actually even worse to put it in writing” because I’ve recently realized that 90% of the arguments that I get into, whether personal or professional, start with a text or an email and not a phone call or in person. If anything we need to be more careful with writing than verbal dialogue because you don’t have the opportunity to explain yourself or use voice inflection to imply things like sarcasm. I just wrote a post myself about how the style of communication we use is changing with technology and this complements that concept well because it is important that we not only change HOW we communicate but also focus on mastering that method to be effective communicators. Well written, thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, I agree with you 100%. Writing can be quicker but the effectiveness really needs to be carefully considered.

      Texts and emails are great at starting an argument, not so good at stopping them.

  2. Another good one, Steve.

    ‘Push yourself to be a better communicator.’

    This is one of those constant room for improvement areas. I know it is in my own life. Since I’m ‘slightly’ more on the introvert side then extrovert, writing is more of a natural outlet in my life then speaking. It’s EASIER for me to share my thoughts/feelings in writing then it is to do verbally. (Yes! That may not be obvious to those who don’t know me in real life!) I can still speak, teach in group settings etc Yet, I had to overcome my own fear of public speaking in order to do it. So since childhood, writing was a more natural and easier way for me to communicate.

    That said! With the internet, as you’ve mentioned, has brought an entire new host of communication challenges. Especially since even with our social media communities, we may not be ABLE to get together in person, so the typed word lacks our tone of voice, we don’t see body language, etc So it’s far easier to miss things like humor, sincerity, etc.

    So thanks for the great reminder.

    1. Thanks Samantha, I am such a serious person I’m always surprised, shocked even, when someone misses my humor in writing. πŸ™‚

      So…. Was I being funny there… or not?

  3. Over time it DOES get a tad easier…. grins. Yet with typed words? Only the typist TRULY knows! haha

    Online, I know that I can be and come across VERY serious when discussing ‘serious’ topics. Much of the time though, there’s a more lighthearted and humorous side. My general style of writing isn’t comedy though, so that can sort of be deceiving (unintentionally) because I tend to write about rather serious subjects for the most part. Not something I really ‘thought’ about perception wise when I first began getting my feet wet on Twitter or writing posts for my blog.

    It’s all a journey and grist for the mill as some would say! : )

  4. Your posts, Mr. Steve, are ALWAYS ON POINT! I have been preaching this for a while and I encourage my son to think before he speaks. I practice giving myself at least 5-6 seconds before I reply. My son does the same. Especially, for a guy, it’s important to keep your cool if at all possible.

  5. One manger of my organization wrote to his superior some harsh words (e mail) ,as a CEO I got copied ,so I sent your article to all the organization’s staff not to him directly …… He got it
    Thanks Steve

  6. Excellent advice, Steve. My folks also taught me, “Think before you speak”. Sometimes I think too much first, and maybe include “TMI” when writing. Face to face communication has the advantage of allowing you to show empathy and adjust your message to the other’s reaction. The disadvantage is the conversation might get sidetracked, or you might chicken out in delivering the message at all. The confrontation can also escalate, especially if you don’t have the opportunity to finish delivering your message before the other cuts you off or tunes you out. However a message is delivered, it definitely is wise to think it through ahead, and then deliver with empathy and fairness. Thank you for the timely reminder.

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