I have never failed to be astonished at the ability of colleagues to take the most innocent of remarks to mean something completely different from what was intended and email is a major culprit here, in that you read the words but don’t hear the tone of voice. This isn’t a new phenomenon however. I’ve been clearing out some old papers and came across a quotation I’ve used in the past in communications training sessions:
“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant”
which is widely attributed to Robert McCloskey, a U.S. State Department spokesman at one of his regular noon briefings during the worst days of the Vietnam War.
On the next page was a quotation from E.M. Forster:
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say”
which certainly chimes with me (although in my case it’s more often a case of “see what I write in this blog”) and set me off wondering whether that’s common, and a short web serach turned up this delightful page (Warning – displacement activity alert!!):
which shows I’m in good company!