The Pitch Episode 74: Facing a Communication Faux Pas

Learn:

I made a major faux pas on social media recently. Learn how to tame the tongue from igniting communications fires that can quickly get out of your control.

The Pitch Episode 74:
Facing a Communication Faux Pas

Read:

I made a major communication faux pas on social media recently. Someone who I didn’t know commented on my post, actually in response to another person’s comment, but I didn’t take the time to examine it so when I read it I felt it was aimed at me. I felt so offended by this stranger’s comment, which in reality was an inside joke to another person’s comment. I handled it all wrong, and went on the attack back at the person for all to see on social media. Shortly thereafter the comment was deleted and the offense was resolved offline when the person wrote me a personal email explaining what his comment meant and who it was intended for, but as someone who prides herself in flawless communication skills I’ve been beating myself up ever since the incident. I shouldn’t have responded so quickly in a defensive way and I should have looked into the matter more closely before firing away with my words. It’s been said the tongue is like fire and the smallest spark of a harsh word can destroy a forest. Words are powerful and communication fires can spread fast with today’s technology, so before you fire away with a response, hold your tongue and walk away from it. Take the situation to at least two other people you trust and ask them to review it to make sure you are reading and perceiving the comment correctly. Or better yet, go to the source offline, and out of the line of fire, to find out what was really meant by the statement. Then decide how to handle it. It’s tempting to respond quickly to comments on social media especially when conversations are so public and you feel like you have to defend something or protect yourself, your client or your company. “The Pitch” challenge today: Take the time to face a communication faux pas. What’s a recent conversation you’ve had with someone either online or in person that didn’t go so well because you jumped to a conclusion or became too defensive too quickly? You can’t take back the words, but you do have the opportunity to learn from it and extinguish the fire with an apology. When I moved out of my parent’s house to go to college, something happened in that transition that made me so angry at them that I wrote a 4-page letter about how mad I was and then dropped the letter in the mailbox. As soon as my letter hit the bottom of the mailbox I wanted to immediately take back every harsh word. I remember that day vividly because I waited hours for the mailman to come collect the mail and then I begged him to give me my letter back. It was an official communications offense. He made me show him my ID in order to return the letter to me, which I promptly shredded and my parents never saw. Thank goodness my parents didn’t have email back then and what a relief that there was no text technology or social media messaging. But we don’t live in a letter-writing world anymore and there are very few buffers like sympathetic mailmen to save us from a dramatic communication faux pas, so remember to pause before you respond or your tongue could ignite a fire that will very quickly get out of your control.

Apply:

What communication faux pas have you made recently?
What do you need to do to correct it?
How can you take steps towards admitting you were wrong and forgiving yourself?

Back to Communications Skills