JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

15 July 2021

While perusing the internet last night, I came across several hilarious articles, blogs, Instagram stories, and Tweets referring to the language we use in corporate emails. While I thoroughly admit to laughing out loud to many of the items I read – this article may have been my favorite – I also must admit to being a bit thrown off with how we communicate with one another.

Written Word

We’ve been working behind computer screens with remote teams over the past 16 months. And even before the pandemic hit, work from home jobs were becoming popular and teams were spread across a larger geographical area than our past has allowed. And when you’re working with folks that are not in front of you, most of the communication happens via email or instant messaging. In other words, we’re communicating more in written word than we have previously.

When communications are written, they can be saved, reread, and hold you accountable. If you have a verbal disagreement, there aren’t usually ways to go back and re-live the exact experience. Sure, we’ll have our memories, but our memories aren’t as reliable as we’d like to think and it’s more difficult to prove something that was said as opposed to written.

Covert Messaging

Whenever we read, with all due respect, we brace ourselves for something tastefully disrespectful. Whenever we read, per my last email, we scroll down anxiously to see what we may have missed the first time around. By using these words, we’re able to let go of our negative feelings and pass them on to the next guy without the fear of losing our jobs. But what if we could simply stop? What if we could write to each other with a mutual level of respect?

Sure, I may have missed something in a previous email. Aren’t we all guilty of that at times? And I also may have done something you deemed idiotic. But do any of us deserve to be disrespected, even if that disrespect is expressed with attempts at tastefulness? Instead of unloading on others, why don’t we deal with our feelings and reply only when we’re calm and reasonable?

As Lao Tzu writes in the Tao Te Ching, “Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”

I’m going to make a pledge to myself. From here on out, I won’t reply to an email when my water is muddy. I’m going to wait until my water is clear. Maybe my influence can cause a positive ripple in the jump-to-conclusions, eloquently written yet insulting, corporate world we live in.

With all due respect, let’s learn how to communicate more peacefully.