The written word is an interesting thing, isn’t it? You don’t hear the author’s voice, so you often don’t know the tone. We’ve all experienced it. You read an email in your voice and assume the author had a certain tone. You read it again. And again. And, yes, you are sure the person must have been aggravated. But it turns out the person was actually not upset at all. He just didn’t communicate his emotions effectively, so the meaning of his words were unclear. Or maybe it was a simple statement or question, and you wonder what the tone was. Example…
“Why don’t you have an iPhone app?”
We get that question from time to time in a support email. (I won’t get into our reasons for not building native apps right now – that’s for another post – but we do have a cool mobile web site that works on any mobile device.) This is of course and easy example, and it really doesn’t matter what the tone is because we can simply answer the question and be done.
However, it doesn’t have any context to it, so you can’t help but wonder what the tone is. Was the person throwing his hands up in the air and thinking, “Are you kidding? It’s 2012. Why in the world don’t you have an iPhone app?!?!?!?!?!?” Or perhaps she asked it in a curious tone. Sort of like, “Hey guys, I was just curious why you don’t have an iPhone app. I suspect there is a good reason because I’m sure I’m not the first person who has asked. Just trying to learn more about this stuff. Love your service!” You don’t have any idea what the tone was. So you assume. And assumption can lead to bad things.
Lately I’ve been witness to a bit of a family drama, which is unfolding because of a communication breakdown. It’s led to anger. Bitterness. Broken relationships. Sadly, it’s all occurred over email, and it’s so unfortunate, because most of this could have been avoided with better communication. People misunderstood tones. Misunderstood intent. Etc. Neither side sees that because they won’t talk to each other. All they’ll do is send increasingly hostile emails.
But I see it objectively because I’ve talked to all involved. And it all could have been avoided if both sides had communicated better. Or not assumed tones. Or simply picked up the phone and talked.
Most of my recent blog posts have been video posts. I like video for the very reason that you can clearly understand my tone, so you can focus on the message itself and not wonder where I’m coming from. And I plan to keep posting videos. They’re fun! But I need to start writing more, because I think effective communication of the written word is an incredible skill to have, and I want to be better at it. Only way to get better is to practice.
I don’t want our customers, or my partners, or my friends or family to ever misunderstand my tone. And I figure the more I practice writing, the better I’ll be at making sure that doesn’t happen.
P.s. If you are ever unsure of my tone, please don’t assume. Just give me a ring! I’m at seven zero four nine zero six two zero three one (I doubt I needed to spell that out. I don’t know if numeric phone numbers get scraped and put into telemarketing databases, but I’d rather not risk it because it’s my cell and I don’t want get inundated.)