“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” ~John Keats
Do you suppose that the written word can be a buffer for any feelings you have about the receiver of your communications? Might it be safe to correspond in writing with someone without first resolving any negative feelings you have about them since, after all, they cannot hear the tone of your voice or see any body language?
You may presume you could just write clearly and they would never know what low opinions you hold of them. But a recent experiment may make you reconsider. This experiment was carried out with the most hands-off of writing platforms — instant messaging. The format and typical usage of instant messaging is designed to be terse. What the experiment shows is that feelings come through, clearly and routinely, even if the text itself is utterly free of any underlying sentiment.
Here is how the experiment worked. Each recipient was told to be prepared to receive a question. The same question would be asked three times. Each time, the writer would hold a different attitude in mind although the written words would be the same. The writer would act quickly. After all three messages were delivered, the recipient was asked to describe the attitude held in mind by the writer with each question.
The writer got a strong attitude in mind. He typed a simple four word question. He then got a different attitude in mind. Yet he typed the same four word question. He got a third attitude in mind and typed the same question again. The turn around time was no more than ten seconds in total.
The question: What do you want?
Each recipient was then asked what the writer meant by Question 1, then by Question 2, and finally by Question 3. Every single recipient answered essentially this way:
The first time, it was:
WHY ARE YOU BOTHERING ME?!?!!?
(WHAT DO YOU WANT?)
The second time, it was:
I don’t understand, what exactly is it you need from me?
(What do you want?)
The third time, it was:
How can I compassionately provide you with everything you need to feel comfortable?
(What do you want?)
And that was the exact sentiment the writer had intended in order in each case.
“What do you want? It turns out that’s not such a simple question after all.” click to tweet
The four words of the question have no inherent attitude, no clues about the feelings of the writer. In the experiment neither the writer nor the recipient had any agenda and there was no particular topic as clues. Even so, the intent of the writing came through. So the conclusion drawn is this: first, prepare your heart. Then communicate. It matters not what means of communication you choose. Your recipient will recognize what you are thinking, and what you are feeling will be heard.
What communication has surprised you? Share it below by commenting.
Photo credit: Gilgongo