I think people of faith ought to evaluate and make better decisions when it comes to communication that needs to be done in person, especially if the message you are conveying is of a critical nature. The Bible says that we are to, "Season our words with salt." They should be words that lift up and not tear down. I decided to copy this article in its entirety. All the credit is given to Ron Edmonson. his email and information is at the bottom of this blog. Let's take his advice to heart and learn that we cannot always say the first thing that jumps off the top of our head and makes its way on the keys of our electronic devices. Humility, meekness, kindness, goodness are still virtues that the body of believers and good people in general need to ascribe to.
By Ron Edmondson Don’t be tempted to have some of life’s more challenging conversations over email.
I have grown to hate email criticism.
Is hate too strong a word?
I don’t think so.
I hate email criticism.
I was talking to a young and new leader recently. He had received a scathing email from someone. It was one of his first. And it was a doozy. Hard hitting. No grace. No value recognized for anything the leader has accomplished. Just the blasting.
Please understand, I’m not opposed to criticism. And I think critical thinking is NOT always criticism. I’ve posted about it before and talked about how we as leaders should process criticism.
I even read—and actually consider—anonymous criticism. I always feel there’s a reason someone remains anonymous. Granted, most of the time it’s because the person is a coward. (Did I just say that?) But sometimes there are valid reasons for anonymity.
So, I’m not anti criticism.
I am, however, anti email-criticism. Or at least how I often see it being used these days.
Enough so that I use the word hate. (Sorry to those who “hate” that word.)
Here are seven reasons I hate email criticism:
It’s impossible to communicate emotion properly. Criticism always has an emotion attached. Always. And it can be so easily misconstrued what that emotion actually is when it’s written and not verbal. It can sting more than it should. It can emphasize—or de-emphasize—more than is intended. Facial expression is ignored. It’s impossible to correctly display emotion in written form. I hate that.
It’s too easy to fire back a response. With little thought, the send button is too easy to find. Before a person thinks. Before they have time to pray. Before anyone can strategically plan out their response, email is too easily at a critic’s disposal.
It leaves people hanging in suspicion. Ever get an email criticism, you email them back a response and then you wait? And you wait. And you wait. You may have answered their concern, they are fully satisfied, but you are still wondering if your email was even received. You don’t know. It creates fear and suspicion, and it’s unfair. I hate that.
It’s easy to hide. Take a slam, hit the send button and run. It’s really that easy. A critic doesn’t even have to sign their name. A computer screen makes for one of the easiest hiding places on earth.
It’s never completely private. It’s too easy to forward an email. Or the famous blind copy email. Ever the recipient of one of those? Email starts a paper trail for something where usually no trail is needed. It never goes away and can be brought back months and years later and be used against someone. That’s very non-grace-giving.
Don’t be tempted to have some of life’s more challenging conversations over email.
It invites misunderstanding. Email removes the person being able to sit and ask questions. Can you tell me what you meant by that statement? Impossible with email. So, what I hear you saying is … . That’s one of the best tricks of a good listener. Impossible with email. Email easily pours and stirs muddy water.
It makes minor issues major issues. The issue may be small, but the fact that someone took the time to place it in writing often elevates it in a leader’s mind. Granted, that may be what the critic wants, but is that even fair? If we aren’t careful, emailed issues may become weightier than the attention they deserve. I’ve even know email bullies out there who use email to unfairly elevate their own personal agenda. I hate when that happens.
Those are just a few reasons.
But here is my advice. If it’s going to cause suspicion—if it’s likely to be misunderstood—if people are involved in the criticism (which is pretty common in my experience), before you send the email think critically. Ask yourself if email really is the right method to offer the criticism.
If we all work together, we may actually have better, healthier and more helpful criticism.
(Now, please understand, there are times when email is the only way you can reach someone. I get that. But maybe if that’s the case you should read THIS POST.)
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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.