When was the last time in your personal or professional life you sent someone a written note? Not a text. Not an email, not via Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat. A personal note, handwritten and sent by mail or placed in an envelope on a worker’s desk? You should try it for three reasons. First, the note will get read, entirely. Second, the message will be taken in a different context than a simple text message. Third, it will actually be memorable.
Wait. Before you dust off a writing instrument, try one thing first along the same line. The next time you want to send a text or quick e-mail with an opinion or idea to somebody – seat of the pants style – go ahead and thumb/type your note and save it. Wait 30 minutes without looking at what you “wrote” again. After the agonizing ½ hour, write down – by hand – the same message in a note you wanted to get across in that text or email. Compare the two. I bet you will be surprised at the different choice of words used and message tone that comes across in the one you wrote with a pen and paper rather than the one you used your two thumbs to craft. I’m not saying one is better, just that they are different and there is a time and a place for both.
Point #1. A message you send without thinking first is much different from when you take the time to write your message whether it be typed or handwritten.
Texting yields not-thought-through messages or in-the-moment reactions. Just taking a few seconds longer gives your brain the time to get ahead of your thumbs and can achieve a higher level of cognizance in the recipient if that is warranted. At least decide if you want to transfer information or make a point. Use a text message to convey information only, a written note (email) for making a point or a handwritten note if you want to make it personal.
Point #2. A quick reply to something objectionable will come across as non-sensitive or confrontational.
This goes back to a lesson I fortunately learned early in my career. This is before an “open mouth, insert foot” response was more than a quick click away. “Scathing memo” was the term I first learned and meant someone wasn’t thinking straight when they wrote it. When you have an immediate reaction – usually it’s anger – write your scathing memo. Go ahead and be clever with passive aggressive statements, backdoor criticism, and double entendre. At that moment it makes the point intended and you feel instantly satisfied with yourself. Put it in your desk drawer. Move on with the rest of your day. The following day, open the drawer and read the memo. I guarantee, unless you are heartless and self-absorbed, that memo will get filed in the right place, the circular one next to your desk, or, better yet, the office shredder. You are now in a frame of mind to write a response that may actually be taken seriously and you won’t get in hot water for writing it.
You cannot unsend a text or email, so if you are unsure, pause before you send; from a brief moment to a day. You will change your message more often than not after even a few minutes of thought. You may also catch that embarrassing auto-correct SNAFU we’ve all experienced. If the point to be made is a serious matter, sleep on it.
Conclusion. Think before you text or email or Tweet or IM or Snapchat or Post anything. Think about the best way to convey a message, not the most convenient (laziest) way. Not only will you have a better chance of making a point, you’ll look smarter doing it.
Face Value does not equate to Fact Value.
Blind use of technology is taking away our ability to think. If we acknowledge that the practical age of the internet began sometime in the early 1990’s and continues to this day, there has been exponential growth in time-saving software, services, gizmos and mindsets that has dramatically improved our ability to operate in a fast-paced world. 24-hour news cycles have been reduced to seconds. Trends take days rather than weeks or months. Extensive research on a topic can be done in a few hours with an internet connected device and the ability to type (or say) “Google.” The kind of information that used to require weeks or perhaps even months of tedious trips to the library, numerous phone calls followed by the arduous task of verifying the information you have received; cross-referencing and double checking everything you learned. Now, the actual information gathering and (limited) fact checking is so easy that it is taken for granted that you can get anything you wish to know in minutes. However, the accuracy of the information is far more suspicious and the manner in which it is conveyed is sophomoric. More and more the same level of care taken in gathering and reporting information is mirrored by the recipients’ level of absorption. Is it not easier to just accept what is said or read than to question it? Face Value does not equate to Fact Value. Bear in mind this goes for how you communicate with others. Think before you speak or write and do likewise as you listen or read.
I personally think it sucks that less time is put into thought. Our mode of communications has become one of quantity not quality. Not only is it lazy, it’s not interesting anymore. Somewhere along the way we have stopped having dialog and replaced it with punctuation-challenged word-strings exchanged with alacrity. Remember to engage when communicating. It’s far more interesting.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for efficiency improvements. Texting or quick interoffice IMs have their place. Like “when’s the meeting?” or “send me the link to that clever blog you were talking about. michaelf – something?” However, the moment an opinion or position needs to be expressed, it’s time to put those thumbs to use with your other fingers and lay out a well-crafted memo. If it is intended for an individual and there is a benefit to making it personal (paying attention salespeople?), handwrite the message. *
The greatest reason for the instant message revolution certainly stems from the same phobia some people have of making phone calls. They don’t want to talk to someone directly. Why? Because it’s harder. It may require more than 5 seconds of your time to nail down the background color of a presentation you’re working on. Important? Maybe, maybe not. At least think about it first. Just like those times when you have to make a phone call you don’t want to make and hope to get sent to voice mail. Don’t worry, you probably will. The phone call recipient is busy texting your boss asking why you haven’t gotten in touch yet.
Michael Hotchkiss – September 22, 2016
*Since I’m an Engineer by degree, I went through adult life writing in neat block letters as was taught when I first started on a drafting board. A few years ago, I decided to start writing in cursive. There was no reason for this other than I wanted to have nice handwriting. I’m still working on it.