Before You Hit Send...
In this post pandemic culture, we have seen several significant changes to the way we do ministry due to the advancement of technology. Among all these technological advancements, perhaps the changes that have best helped pastors be more efficient is email and text. Our communication is almost instantaneous. Few of us can still remember when we had to sit down to hand write a letter, only to wait two or three days before it would reach the other person.
Times have changed now, and most of the emails or texts we’ve written have been more helpful and allowed us to communicate more efficiently. But emails and texts can also get us in a lot of trouble if we're not intentional about communicating clearly. In ministry, we're often emailing and texting about emotionally and spiritually heavy topics, which makes it even more important that we take responsibility for how we're communicating as ministry leaders. I have heard many stories where emails or texts have gotten pastors in so much trouble that some have even lost their jobs because of miscommunication over email or text.
So, what can we do to help ensure that our emails or texts are being helpful and not hurtful?
Here are some tips to consider before writing any email or text:
1. Reflect Before Hitting Send
Before you shoot back a quick text or email reply, ask yourself, "Should this conversation take place by text, email, or in-person?" It's easy to find yourself in a heated text or email thread when it would have been best to meet with the person face-to-face to talk through the issue.
I recently received an email from someone who was trying to apologize for something but the email came across as being quite offensive. It made me pause and think of how many emails I have written in my lifetime that probably had the same intention but came across as a little offensive. It made me reflect on how many times I sent an email when I should have called the person or asked to meet with them to resolve the issue.
So before you send that text or email, especially if it's about a difficult topic, reflect and determine the best means of communication for your message.
2. Be Simple & Clear
According to the Nonverbal Group, the majority of communication is non-verbal. When you're writing a text or email, non-verbal "language" isn't communicated. This means you need to go the extra mile when communicating over text or email to ensure you're clearly communicating your intended message.
To expand on the apology email example, if you're truly apologizing, then simply apologize and nothing else. Simply saying “I’m sorry!” and telling what you are sorry about will be enough. Usually, the other person is mainly interested in hearing that you understand where they’re coming from and hope to make things better.
Ever heard of the “KISS” method? “Keep It Simple Stupid.” This was probably some of the best advice ever given to me as a young leader. By humbling yourself and looking through the other person’s perspective, you open the door to more effective communication in the future.
3. Don’t Be Defensive
When communicating about an important topic, whether via email, text, or face-to-face, being defensive will not get you anywhere. In fact, it usually makes the other person become defensive as well, ultimately counteracting any progress you’re trying to make.
Before sending that email or text, evaluate how you feel and what you’re trying to communicate. Ask yourself, “Is there a chance this will be taken the wrong way?” or “How can I be more gracious in my response?”
4. When In Doubt; DON'T
Growing up in the Smith household, my Dad would always tell us that if "When in doubt; don't!" This statement has been a helpful guideline for me in decision making. If I have a doubt about it, then I just don't do it! Although, the doubt may clear later on and I make the decision to move forward, but for some reason, if there has been a doubt, it usually helped me make the right decision. I think this applies when we are deciding whether to hit send or not. If there is any doubt, then I would say don't do it until you get clarity and the feeling of doubt goes away. Some people say, "Trust your gut!" As believers, we may say it is the result of the Holy Spirit living in us and we are simply following His lead. Whatever you feel, if there is a doubt; then at that moment hit pause and simply wait to send it. You may come back later and realize that there’s either a better way to say it, or it probably shouldn’t have been sent in the first place.
So, remember, next time you need to write an email or text about an important issue or practically any text or email, reflect. Think about what you intend for the reader to get from the email. There was an old saying years ago that said, THINK before you say something! Ask yourself these questions: Is it TRUTHFUL? Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND? When we actually pause for a moment and reflect or think about what we are going to say, we recognize the value of our words and how we are going to communicate. The fruit of the Spirit is not an option for us as followers of Jesus. It is who were are as we follow His way of living! It is the way we are choosing every day to show His love to others. You and I will either communicate words of life or we will communicate words that are unkind. What will we do with our words that we use in either or texts or our emails?
These few tips will hopefully aid in guiding you through any further conflict or help you avoid it before it happens. Above all, this can be avoided by simply being aware of potential barriers to communication as you text, email, or call your staff member or team.
What are some other email tips that we can learn from you to help us better serve the people we work with each day? Remember, I'm cheering you on!