Each day, we send out a variety of messages to communicate with people online. A recent Business Insider statistic even shows that the average person between 18 and 24 years old sends around 2000 texts every month. Our friends, family, coworkers and classmates receive texts and emails from us consistently about matters big and small.
As automatic as communicating online may feel, the effort we put into crafting messages and showing common courtesy matters. Even actions as basic as sending a quick text takes on added significance considering that online messaging has become one of the primary forms of communication.
Because of this, it’s important to think about the words and tone we use in our messaging. Even a simple action like sending a coworker a quick heads-up text can come off cold or condescending when we send it mindlessly. Just like there is etiquette involved in speaking to someone in person or over phone, there also needs to be etiquette when using email or text.
Something to be seriously considered when sending a text message to someone you are angry or upset with, or even to someone who made a small mistake, is that we don’t come off immediately accusatory by starting a message with “why would you,” “you didn’t” or similar phrasing. Even if you are not personally mad at a person, assuming the worst about a situation without giving someone the benefit of the doubt automatically puts the person receiving the message in a mode of defense when they may have had a perfectly valid reason for something.
Unintentionally giving someone the wrong impression over text doesn’t just apply to people we are upset with, however. When we aren’t careful, basic messages like asking someone to complete a task or check up on something can give off a tone of rudeness or make the receiver of the message nervous that you may be angry.
There are a few basic ways to avoid unnecessary conflicts or misunderstandings when it comes to email and text. Even for people you know and contact often, it’s always good to include a short introductory phrase to let the receiver know your tone is friendly. Even just a simple “Hey!” or “Hi!” in a message can avoid coming off cold. When we include a short welcome instead of jumping immediately into a request or accusation, the receiver often feels more comfortable and less defensive.
Additionally, for messages that are not incredibly serious, including punctuation or emojis can let people know that your tone is friendly. There’s no need to go over the top, and it’s important to use these forms appropriately based on the medium of messaging and the receiver, but it’s generally a good idea to take extra effort to keep messages light-hearted.
A variety of conflicts begin when someone misreads a text or email, interpreting it as rude, standoffish or even angry. To avoid this unnecessary tension, the most important reminder when sending a message is to be mindful. Since we receive and send so many texts and emails in our average days, it’s easy to type up words without giving them a second thought.
The next time you send someone a message online, really think of how you would feel upon receiving that same message, and be open to adjusting your words accordingly.