by Christine Mainka
Has it ever happened to you? Your friend or colleague sent you an amusing email. You quickly composed a clever riposte. You clicked “send.” And then you had second thoughts: Oh dear, I forgot that X is a little vulnerable in that area; she might take it up the wrong way; I wish I hadn’t sent that message.
It is so easy to forget your manners when you are not dealing with people in the flesh, or even on the phone. Easier, anyway. We make bloopers in face-to-face conversation, of course, but seldom with the drastic effects that an email blunder can bring.
A major incident occurred in one large organization when a surly complaint about the cleaning staff was sent by mistake to all the staff representatives instead of department managers. Such anecdotes abound.
The potential for messaging meltdown is increased when such systems are used precisely to avoid direct communication. There is a tendency in our society to seek technological solutions for human problems: Depressed? Take Prozac. Don’t like your figure? Get some liposuction. Find the times tables hard to learn? Use a calculator.
In communication, we tend to flee from difficult interpersonal issues and
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