By Art McNeese, D. Min
Every leader has a lot on their plate these days. The complexities and pace of leading is greater and more demanding than ever in a culture of hyper-sensitivity. Enter technology. Technology is good and helpful. But it has limitations. This is particularly true when it comes to group leadership. Elders and ministers are called to lead as a group. For convenience, we send emails and texts to keep each other informed. When it comes to diverse opinions, overt disagreement or emotionally loaded issues, email and text exchanges can be harmful.
“I’m out of this text exchange. If you want to discuss it, I’ll do it in person.” That’s the last text I sent to a group of elders and ministers on one occasion. We had been going back and forth in disagreement for over thirty minutes. Warning. Interpreting sarcasm even with emojis is dangerous. Sarcasm erodes community; often at someone’s expense. It’s never a good idea to have serious conversations or disagreements over email or texting. Trying to resolve problems as a group over email or text increases the odds of misinterpretation. You cannot observe body language, eye contact, hear tone, intent, and/or spirit.
Here are a few tips for healthy group communication.
1. Type once. Read it out loud. Edit always. Find the backspace.
2. Establish a protocol for things that are helpful and appropriate for email or texts.
3. Establish what will NOT be discussed via email or texts. (i.e., confidential conversations,
judgmental opinions about others, including church staff, etc.)
4. Avoid deciding on emotionally charged issues over email or texts.
5. Be cautious about what is copied and forwarded. It can too easily be sent to the wrong person.
Words matter. Use caution for the sake of others. When in doubt, speak directly to the person rather than assuming what is being said is true and accurate. Again, the counsel from someone who wrote to a group of people disoriented by trials and temptations is timely.
“…let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
James 1. 19b
Contact Art: email@example.com