Thursday, February 23, 2006


If You Get Too Close To the Fire...

A co-worker sent me this link to an article about The Secret Cause of Flame Wars. The article looks at how hard it is to pick up on the tone of an email.
According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.


Those who sent the messages predicted that nearly 80 percent of the time their partners would correctly interpret the tone. In fact the recipients got it right just over 50 percent of the time.


The reason for this is egocentrism, or the difficulty some people have detaching themselves from their own perspective, says Epley. In other words, people aren't that good at imagining how a message might be understood from another person's perspective.
While the article and study focus on emails, I believe the same is true for blogs. Sometimes I have a hard time deciphering what the writer of a blog is really saying. Reading the comments to a post can be even more challenging. Often, when I read comments left by others, I see that they have interpreted the post very differently than I.

The primary reason I started blogging was that I read a post by a blogger who was someone I've known for nearly 40 years. He made a reference to people who opposed abortion and gay marriage as being "Nazis" and "fascists." I found this quite upsetting as, for the most part, I oppose abortion although I'm neutral on gay marriage. Maybe he was using hyperbole. I've seen many bloggers excuse their own comments as hyperbole, which I don't see as a good defense.

The lesson for me is to make effort to be as precise in my language as possible. I can be satirical, humorous, etc. still but be clear and precise in the process.

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