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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

What Not to Put in an Email or Social Media

I email A LOT and so I realize how easy it is to put things in writing that you should really say in person. A few weeks ago I blogged about how Facebook can make you sick and how it's important to communicate face-to-face with people.

Recently a reporter from the Los Angeles Times interviewed me about sharing bad news electronically. Specifically news about one's health. Many of you may be familiar with Caring Bridge which is a free blog service offered to people facing serious illness. It allows families to share health updates and needs with people authorized to receive the updates. I recently followed one of my friends through her Cancer treatments by reading her Caring Bridge updates.

Proceed with caution when communicating certain information using online forums and email. Use these Smart Moves when emailing, Facebooking, Twittering or blogging to keep you in the Smart Zone:

  • You can't hear your tone of voice in an email. I've received emails where I thought the person was mad at me to later find out that wasn't the case at all. Words are only 7% of communication with your voice inflection and body language making up the remaining 93%. Keep in mind that emails can be misinterpreted because words are only a small part of communication.

  • You can't take back what you put in writing. Once it hits Facebook or Twitter it becomes part of a permanent history. Unless you are tech savvy and know how to retract an email, which normally doesn't work, once you send one it's a done deal. Better yet, avoid the "Reply All" option. I've heard tons of "Reply All" horror stories.

  • "I could get into trouble by telling you this," is one of the 10 things you should never say in an email according to Roger Matus' Death by Email blog. Click here for the 10 Things Never to Put in an Email.

  • Use airport caution. Anything you could get into trouble saying at the airport - like "I feel like blowing this place up" - you shouldn't say via online forums. Any teasing that could be interpreted as potential terrorism should be off limits.

  • TMI "Too Much Information." Emails or Facebook updates like, "I've been throwing up all night" or "I'm worried about so-in-so's marriage" fall into this category. Also, be weary of emailing about other people's health. Information about another person's medical issues, medication and treatments should be confidential. You can share medical information about yourself but it's inappropriate to share it about others.

  • Condolences should be communicated by phone, handwritten note or in person.

  • Resist the urge to be cyberdaring. Most people are cyberdaring. Haven't we all emailed a message that we would be too timid to say in person? With social media and emails we become reckless with our comments. I've even witnessed couples having arguments through their Facebook comments. And I've worked with people who have been fired for information they sent by email.

Remember that your relationships, personal and professional, are worth the little extra it would take to personally communicate. That will keep you in the Smart Zone.

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