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Are you saying what I think you are saying?

So much of social media consists of us talking at one another.  We tweet, we post, we retweet, we repost.  We limit our conversations to 140 characters. I joke that I can’t even think above 140 characters any more, or write longer than 300-500 words, from all the blogging!

One of the intrinsic elements of one-on-one communication is the social cue. We reveal small expressions, physical movements, changes in voice intonation and even changes in our pupil dilation.  All of these subtle movements tell our partner what we mean, in a way that is far deeper than words are able to convey.

Ultimately, communication is not simply about your ability to talk and to listen. It also encompasses your ability to understand the complexities of an issue through verbal, physical and social cues, and then extrapolate that information into an appropriate and effective response. So where does that leave us on Twitter?  Facebook? Texts and IM’s?

In a conversation with Dr. Howard Book, author of the The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, he said that even communications via video chat are stifled because most of the subtle communication events are missed. And in many ways we manufacture some of our communication events because we are “on camera” as it were, so we alter our gesticulations to account for the filming area.

Effective, emotionally intelligent communication is challenging in social media.  Emoticons are hardly suitable for conveying the spectrum of our emotional communications.

So how can we manage this?

Try to read what you write as though you didn’t know you.

What I mean is, look at it as if you were someone else.  Is it funny?  Rude? Is the sarcasm lost, or appropriate? Will your reader understand a single entendre, much less a double one?

Don’t just look at what you post with 2 eyes. Look at it with 3 different sets:

  • From the perspective of someone who knows you well;
  • From the perspective of someone who doesn’t know you well, but communicates with you frequently;
  • Then try to look at it as someone who doesn’t know you at all.

Is the post still funny? witty? sexy? snarky?  Did it translate across all levels?

Writing for all levels of your audience is not always an easy thing to do.  Where a good tweet builds relationships, a bad one can cost you relationships, get you fired and generally plague your existence.  Just ask Octavia Nasr.