Sliding Otter News: Juggling Feelings, Emails and Text Messages


Sliding Otter News


November 6, 2010


Volume 2, Issue 24


Juggling Feelings, Emails and Text Messages


Sneakers on a Telephone Wire

Sneakers on a Telephone Wire

So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.
~ Jiddu Krishnamurti


Tone of voice suggests excitement or depression. Blushing suggests anger or embarrassment. Tears suggest sadness. All of these hints help us make sense of other people’s words. Without them we are quite likely to misinterpret feelings or miss them altogether. Even with this extra information, we might not be sure how someone else feels. But it’s a start.

At one time, the only way we could communicate was by talking directly with each other. Back then people weren’t in a hurry and could take time to hear each other out. They asked questions until they understood what each other meant.

Over the centuries, we have developed many shorthand methods of communicating. At the same time the pace of our lives has quickened considerably. These days we want everything immediately and take affront at having to wait more than a few seconds for anything. In the process, we have been cut off from rich sources of information.

The telephone deprived us of seeing another person as he or she talked. Emails deprived us of hearing tone of voice, accent, and how fast someone talked. Text messages have cut even our typewritten words to the bare minimum, often using shortcuts for words and expressions, at least IMHO (in my humble opinion.)

What are the advantages of emails or text messages over more complete communication? We don’t have to wait to share our messages. We can also converse in shorthand. As long as we are sharing brief information, there’s no problem. The disadvantage is the loss of emotional information. If we want someone to know how we feel we are limited to trying to describe our feelings or resorting to emoticons (smiley faces.) It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Emoticons might well be worth less than a single word. They relay about as much information about our feelings as a stick figure does about a person. 😦

I recall once having a misunderstanding with someone very close to me. Due to distance and different time zones, we tried to resolve the issue by email. The more we tried, the worse it got until we finally talked about it face to face.

Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of face to face communication. If we must resort to electronic shorthand, we would do well to remember the limitations of technology. Being aware that our feelings or intentions might be distorted, we can take care to clarify what we mean and how we feel. If we are not sure, it always helps to ask what the other person thinks we mean.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Be aware of your feelings about what you say or write.
  • Realize that you might not always clearly communicate how you feel.
  • Be especially careful with email and text messages.
  • Be sure to clarify feelings you think are attached to incoming messages.
  • If you are not sure what feelings are being suggested, check it out. 🙂





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