Watch Your Words – Online

Words are very powerful. They can build up, encourage and glorify. They can also tear down, discourage and curse. The scriptures have a lot to say about watching how we speak. There are over 130 verses just on the tongue. Proverbs 12:18 says “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” So as believers paying attention to words is vital. I can still remember the times when my words have caused hurt. You can’t pull them back in and change what was said. It’s then we realize just how wicked our hearts can be, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34b.

The problem we face in today’s everyday life is that many (if not most) of our communication comes in the form of reading such as email, texting, Facebook etc. When there is a face-to-face conversation it’s much easier to pick up on tone, meaning and intent. Words on a screen or page don’t convey the same thing as they do verbally. So it’s especially applicable that we take care in what we say when we are communicating electronically. Here are some tips to help us communicate better in our online conversations.

  1. Express emotion in words. Since we don’t have the luxury of showing our face or an emotion when we are communicating online it’s a good idea to come right out and say it. At first it might seem a bit odd to throw in a line such as “By the way I’m really excited about this in case you can’t tell” or “I’m frustrated and upset because of what has happened.” Now please take note that these expressions of emotions need to be carefully considered as well. Even in face-to-face conversations we can’t just fly off the handle or act inappropriately with our emotions.
  2. Summarize important points. I always find it easier to know the main points someone is trying to get across when they summarize it at the end. This is not just good practice for email but for all forms of non-verbal communication. This way they know what is important to you. You can even say something like, “Here is what I need the most.”
  3. State clearly what you are expecting in return. This is a really important point. There are times I’ve received and email or text and there no indication that the sender wants something from me. Later the person says, “You didn’t get back to me.” If you are looking for some kind of reply or action then it should be clearly stated and preferably at the end. If there are more than one action items then it’s also a good idea to list them. For example you might end an email with, “Please reply by email or call me by Friday to let me know if you are coming to the conference. Please also pass this email onto Jim so he can see the details.”
  4. Speak in a way your reader will understand. If you are sending a text to a teenager it might be alright to use chat lingo (LOL, what r u up 2). In general it’s best to use casual tone with friends and a more formal tone with strangers, superiors or those older than you until you get to know them. This of course is true of verbal communication as well.
  5. Respond promptly. When you receive an email or text, etc. asking you to get back to the sender, do your best to reply as soon as possible. We all have busy lives and I know how hard it is when many people are vying for my time. It’s easy just to ignore an email or stash it away in the back of your mind never to deal with it again. Make an effort to respond so the person isn’t waiting.

Theres always room for improvement and Im sure that the more we communicate online the more we will be able to define what works and what doesnt. If you have some tips to share on this subject, please leave a comment below.

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