A young woman I mentor sat across the table from me in my Starbucks “office” and shared her frustration that a member of her small group had dropped out.
The woman had posted something on Facebook about her candidate in the presidential election.
Someone from the small group had pushed back on Facebook.
The group member sent an email letting the group know she had been hurt and offended and wouldn’t be coming anymore. She declined to meet in person to clear the air and come to a better understanding.
I don’t personally know all of you who read this, but I’m betting each of you could share stories of misunderstanding that have come from a text taken the wrong way, or lack of response to an email, or an ill-advised opinion posted on Facebook that hurt someone’s feelings.
Sometimes it’s what we do communicate, and sometimes it’s what is left unsaid. Sometimes it is the inability to hear a tone of voice, or see a facial expression that gets us off-track relationally.
A friend of mine pointed out these verses recently:
I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 3 John 13,14
Do you think even John and Paul may have dealt with people misunderstanding their heart when their letters were limited by the inability to convey a gentle tone and empathy…to reach out and touch someone on the arm, to look deep into their eyes?
I encouraged my young friend to process this experience with her small group, and without talking about politics, or the woman who left, ask themselves what they can learn from this.
Are there times they can share when they have been misunderstood because they didn’t communicate something sensitive or potentially explosive face to face? Or times they’ve been hurt by someone else?
Why do you think people are bolder on social media than they would be face to face?
How can they can redeem the relationship with their fellow group member?
Is there any policy regarding disagreements that they might agree to as group moving forward?
Our hard and fast rule is “NEVER fight in email (or text)”.
My small group has a 24/7 text chain which is an awesome way to encourage each other and share prayer requests and even silly things. The other day one of the women shared a prayer request and I was tempted to make a joke about her dysfunctional family (which we ALL have and which we’ve joked about in person frequently), but it was a text, and I was uncertain how she was feeling in the moment so I didn’t send it.
My thought? When in doubt, leave it out.
What has been your experience with misunderstandings when communicating through social media?