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electronic miscommunication Oh, how easy it is:

properly communicate via text message to a legislator. My text was returned with a terse, even snippy reply. You


know the old saying, “tit for tat?” So I fired off another text, probably saying something not very professional. Between what is said and not meant and what is meant and not said, much is lost. I have made much of my living in the communications field — 10 years prior to getting into public service and an- other 20 after getting into county government. After a long career of almost 37 years in public service, my job requires effective communication. Yet, I apparently did not convey my message effectively in that text to a senator. I considered the wording of my text and really could not think of a better way that I could have phrased my message. Legislators and I are sometimes on opposite sides of an

issue, but I always do my very best not to hold any ill will toward someone who has a different opinion or value from mine. However, this legislator appeared to be very offended that I would be on the other side of this particular issue. It was then that I had to realize that we were not having this discussion face-to-face, but electronically. Email and texting impart a lot of convenience to our ev-

eryday communication. While typing up an email or text is certainly faster than calling or meeting in person, it lacks the personal cues that often make communication mean- ingful. Tat’s why it’s very common and easy for misun- derstandings to occur. Perhaps the line you intended to be funny didn’t come off that way on the other end. Or you had no intention of being rude, yet your closing remark sounded that way to the recipient. In a legislative session when bills are moving quickly,

many times a quick text is all you can do. My latest bad experience reminded me of the extreme importance of clear and concise electronic communication. As someone once said, “Texting is a brilliant way to miscommunicate how you feel and misinterpret what other people mean.” With email and text, it is difficult to convey emotion be- cause there are no paralinguistic or nonverbal cues such as gesture, emphasis or intonation. But over the phone you can grasp a good deal about how a person is feeling just by the tone of their voice. Te reason it’s difficult for us to appreciate email and text limitations stems from egocentrism. When you send an email


ommunication: “Te successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.” On a day during the recent legislative ses- sion, I was jolted by an unsuccessful attempt to

or text, you are essentially “hear- ing” the statement you intend to send. So if you intend to be funny or sarcastic, you assume that the recipient will also “hear” the mes- sage this way. It’s not easy to re- member that our audience may, in fact, hear the message differently. Email and texts, although they

Seems To Me...

have limitations, will be around for a long time. One reason is that we baby boomers know how to use it and are not intimidated by it, unlike other forms of high-tech communication that may be a bit cryptic and hard to use. I’m obviously out of touch. I have been using email and text messaging for a long time.

Eddie A. Jones County Consultant

I’ve had opportunities to observe effective and extremely in- effective use of technology-assisted communication. I don’t understand why some people just toss all courtesy aside and feel they can say anything in public or in writing just be- cause they are using a form of technology. Jodie Andrefski’s quote, “He seemed to think we were on the same page. I wasn’t even sure we were reading the same book,” often describes our electronic communication. A good email database or the use of listservs can be benefi- cial for your county office if you will simply employ certain rules of etiquette. Let me share a few commandments that I hope you will find helpful in using the various technologies in your com- munications efforts. Many of these are geared toward email, but could apply to text messaging and other forms of elec- tronic communication.

“Tou shalt send information to groups. Tou shalt send requests for action to individuals.” Email is an effective way of sending information to large

Commandment 1

groups of people. However, if you want someone to take some action, it’s best to ask them individually because you are much more likely to get a response. Here is what I mean: If you are sending out a meeting announcement and you want people to RSVP, it’s good to send out a general email to the targeted group. It is then effective to follow-up with indi- viduals who have not responded. While a little more time- consuming, you will get a much better response that way and

See “ELECTRONIC” on Page 22 >>> 21

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