The Blog
  • Diana Schneidman

Do you know how to READ online posts? (I’m serious!)

Communicating is a two-way street. When we write online, we want to create relationships imbued with know, like, trust. However, because these messages may be composed in haste and ultra-succinct, the recipient must do his share in the communications process and read what we send with his interpretation of know, like, trust.

There’s plenty of lessons out there on how to write for the internet. Advice such as: keep it brief . . . use abbreviations liberally . . . break up longer copy with lots of white space . . . be conversational . . connect at a personal level.

However, in practice, it’s easy for the reader to feel offended, especially when a message is directed at us personally. Blog comments, answers to our posted questions, tweets, Facebook reactions and more can easily feel like a putdown.

The problem is compounded when the format is especially terse (think texting and Twitter here). Also when messages are exchanged quickly. (And this is almost all the time since relatively few people read, much less think about, what they have written before hitting “send.”)

One solution is smiley-face emoticons to lighten the mood of the message. Another is exclamation points to intensify emotion.

Traditionally, such devices are frowned upon as lazy alternatives to effective communications.

Still, they persist because they continue to serve a purpose, shaving the sharpness off a brief comment that comes off as harsh, even critical, when left bare.

But I think there’s another solution as well: When we read these messages, we must read them the right way.

And what is the right way?

We must read them in a friendly, warm tone. This often alters our interpretation of what we have read so that we feel much more positive towards the sender.

There are two participants in communications: the sender and the recipient. We as recipients must take on more responsibility for the success of a message by assuming the best until the worst is definitely proven.

The internet, particularly social media, is meant to promote social connectedness. But if we read these communications as we have read longer, more thought-out, pieces in the past, we can feel like we have been vaguely insulted and belittled, as though our opinion is not valued.

If we put all the responsibility on the sender, we can be incited to anger, or at least discomfort, from moment to moment.

However, social networking and other online communications will change our world much more successfully if we actively look for and assume the best in the messages we receive.

Originally posted 10-12-11

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