Friday, November 17, 2006


Open to Misinterpretation

This is old news, I know, but it bears repeating because apparently I've been misinterpreted. A study done by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as reported in Wired News, shows that about half of the time we misinterpret the meaning of email because we have no social cues to show us the emotional tone of the content. In other words, if you're joking about something, people will assume you are serious half the time. The study also showed that we assume ninety percent of the time that we are correct in our interpretation.

I found a great blog post on this at The Mad Dog Weekly.

Recently, I sent an email to another blogger - someone I don't know, but who blogs about writing and has some interesting posts. I wished her a happy NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and she responded by asking more about me. I gave her a brief description and ended by telling her not to let me distract her from novel writing. I said that if she wanted to respond, she could set a word count and when she reached it, she could respond - using the response as a carrot, if you will. She has not responded. All I can think is that she misinterpreted my ending as pomposity or arrogance, which was not my intent. I've tried NaNoWriMo and I'll use any excuse not to write. If someone new emailed me, I'd be all over myself wanting to respond and ignoring the novel. Unless, of course, I set myself a word count to reach and then used the promised time to respond as the carrot. My tone was meant to be light-hearted, a jest more about myself than about the recipient.

What I don't understand about emails that bother us in some way is why we don't write back and ask the intent of the email, rather than stew about it. I am as guilty of stewing as anyone, so I'm going to have to figure out how to circumvent this natural reaction.

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