Return to Sender

Rich Preuss

James 1:19

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry...

Written communication is tricky. Studies have indicated that as much as 93% of communication is nonverbal. Things like tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and eye contact all communicate information that isn’t conveyed in an email.

Years ago, one of my partners and I got sideways in our relationship. It was unpleasant and embarrassing because we were both committed Christians. Once we got sideways, we started assuming the worst of each other in our email correspondence. 

Looking back, a lot of the things we were assuming were actually kind of funny. I would say something like, “This is what I felt this email was conveying.” He would be surprised that I had read that into the correspondence. He too read things into my emails that weren’t there. What got us back on track was a consultant who was listening to us and asked, “What’s the problem here? Both of you want the same thing!”

Sadly, we live in a world that encourages us to make rash judgments all the time. I have found some things that help me out of this trap: assuming the best of others, seeing them as children of God, seeking first to understand them, and not being attached to my own opinion.

We now have a rule in our office that communication about difficult issues should take place in person. We know that any troubling emails will result in a call to the sender’s office with the request, “Do you have a minute to talk?”

TAKE THE CHALLENGE: When I am troubled by a written communication, do I seek to clarify the sender’s intent before rushing to judgement?