I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money – Why You Should Deliver Sensitive Messages in Person

By Michelle Malay Carter on December 12, 2007 

The Dangers of EmailI’ve got some heavy writing commitments outside my blog this week so my entries will be a little lighter and less often.? It’s painful because I’ve stumbled upon some good stuff this week that I have not had time to research.

Back in the day when I did customer service training, I used the following sentence to make a point about communication:

“I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.”

This sentence is interesting in that if you say the sentence seven times, each time placing the emphasis on a different word, the meaning of the sentence shifts.

Try it…

  1. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.
  2. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.
  3. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.
  4. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.
  5. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.
  6. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.?
  7. I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money.

My?advice to managers:? If you have something sensitive to say, do it face to face.? Email not only?keeps us from using body language cues, but also it?denies us the ability to place emphasis on a certain word in a sentence, leaving the sentence open to multiple interpretations.? This can be a dangerous management practice.

Have you ever had an email message misinterpreted?

Filed Under Executive Leadership, Managerial Leadership, Personal Observation

Comments

10 Responses to “I Didn’t Say You Stole My Money – Why You Should Deliver Sensitive Messages in Person”

  1. Mike King on December 12th, 2007 7:35 pm

    This is so true. I used to have emails misinterpreted all the time before I made a decision to never send another one that has any risk of conflict and misinterpretation. I call or see the person face to face instead now.

    I’ve read somewhere that only 7% of communication is the words you speak, and up to 70% is in how you say it and present it (body language). Should make everything think twice about hitting that send button since its obviously likely to be misinterpreted. I wrote a couple posts about rules of email that might be interesting to readers that are related to this:

    http://mikeking.ethereal3d.com/2007/10/email_rules_part1/
    http://mikeking.ethereal3d.com/2007/12/email_rules_part2/

  2. Michelle Malay Carter on December 12th, 2007 10:13 pm

    Mike,

    Thanks for the comment. I guess this is why emoticons are so popular. It’s a shame they look so childish :( Maybe someone should invent business emoticons that look more sophisticated.

    Regards,

    Michelle

  3. Dhruva Trivedy on December 13th, 2007 6:52 am

    I would tend to agree with you Michelle, on this without any doubt whatsoever. In fact creating the trend for blended forms of learning is based on this thinking.
    Just e-learning is not enough and this is what needs to be conveyed to the IT world in a more emphatic manner. This vertical,which is constrained to think that technology has a solution to all maladies, I find, is hell bent upon reinventing the wheel in many situations.

  4. Michelle Malay Carter on December 13th, 2007 7:10 am

    Dhruva,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, blended forms of learning make sense for a variety of reasons.

    Michelle

  5. Nathania Johnson on December 14th, 2007 12:33 am

    I learned this lesson the hard way this week. We met at my kids’ school with the Principal and my son’s AIG, IEP, and Speech teachers. I had the totally wrong impression of the Principal because I injected tones into her email. I’m quite embarrassed of what I thought of her.

    She’s an impressive educator who values the differences in learning that kids have. I wish I’d given her a chance sooner.

  6. Michelle Malay Carter on December 14th, 2007 7:44 am

    Nathania,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, the potential for mistakes is great here. After I published this post, I remembered the time I was privy to an email conversation where a manager had asked an employee to re-do a piece of work in more detail. The employee dutifully did it and sent an email saying he resent the work.

    I don’t remember the exact wording, but the manager read the email as the employee saying that he RESENTED re-doing the work, and, boy, did an uncomfortable exchange begin!

    Michelle

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