As is evident from a couple of my previous posts on this blog, I’ve been actively utilizing my OpenLink membership on LinkedIn. I came across Christopher Allen’s LinkedIn profile and from there went onto to visit his blog called Life with Alacrity [ the link to which has not been posted by him on his profile – I got it from an endorsement! ]

He talks about how hostilities develop on the online medium.

“… when a group process results in a hostile message, try to determine if the author is actually reacting to what you said or if their hostility is based on extrapolating to “obvious” generalities. This may not allow you to directly address the hostility, but it may help you better understand it and thus not contribute to the cycle of flames.”

Since I am a member of various online networking portals and their related discussion Groups on Yahoo!, I too have witnessed lots of hostility-filled exchanges. I frequently tell myself and share with friends that one shouldn’t take it personally when someone attacks our e-mail/message – simply because one never knows the situation of that other person. She/he might be having a bad day, they might have some “repressed fears” (sic) that might be playing out or simply – it’s just their opinion. It’s quite obvious that not everyone will agree with you – at the same time this thought is the least practiced. Maybe because we also believe that “When someone puts us down, if we don’t stand up for our honor, we will be left with none.”

I believe that for the online medium, we must consciously give the other person the benefit of the doubt. There is so much missing from the online medium – tonal inflections, facial expressions, body language – how can we even begin to comprehend what the other person was thinking when they replied to our e-mail/message? I personally try to use smilies and other adjectives and punctuation to try and put across my frame of mind but it isn’t always possible especially in business e-mail – my client might not take me seriously.

In recent months I’ve realized the importance of picking up the phone and talking to someone. E-mail just isn’t enough to get the ball rolling. Especially in India – e-mail communication is a waste of time in 98% of the cases. Dina Mehta had a wonderful comment to Christopher Allen’s post regarding the Indian frame of mind.