Careful what you say, and how you say it

A recent study by the American Psychological Association highlights the fact that people often misinterpret the tone of e-mail. Humorous elements like sarcasm and irony are often read literally and can be unintentionally offensive. Your friends probably are more in tune with your sense of humor than are business associates or customers. While friends may sense the sarcasm, co-workers and clients often will not. The results can be disastrous. Be careful when authoring a message to clearly communicate your tone, and always err on the side of caution. In some sensitive situations you may want to by-pass email entirely, opting for telephone or face to face meetings instead. As always be careful what you type. Resist dropping that clever barb in a heated exchange via the web. The world is ever more connected, and the potential to appear like a real jerk in front of a billion people is very real. (It is not particularly difficult to forward a message or post the text on the web.) If you are engaged in a “back and forth” exchange that is escalating, walk away. No, run away. Clever is great over beers with friends, but it can cost you at the office. Take time to cool off and then pick up the phone, or send an e-mail message to reduce the tension. You will come across as a professional either way. The other way to avoid problems is to follow the timeless advice of your mother “If you have nothing nice to say, than say nothing at all.”
E-mails and egos

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