I facilitate a workshop titled Remote Communication Epic Fails, which is designed to not only be informative, but to be fun and team building as well. The response to date has been amazing, however I recently received some negative feedback that made me think and has brought me to write this article.
If you have read my previous article, Thank you for the Criticism, you will know that I am a strong believer in providing people with criticism in an appropriate, good-willed, and constructive manner. This particular criticism came to me via a third party – and so, I am not sure how it was presented – but never-the-less, I consider it worthy of sharing.
The client really enjoyed the session on the whole, especially the amount of interaction that was available using breakout rooms. One hundred employees were in attendance, which was the virtual platform limit on the day. Topics on the agenda in this workshop include Tall Tales (broken telephone), Body Bloopers (body language), The Sounds of Silence (non-replies), Punctuation Deviations, and more.
The criticism that was provided by this particular client was related to the final item on the agenda –Punctuation Deviations – which they said made them feel like they were back at school.
To provide some background, my intention for including this in the agenda is to provide attendees with insight into how terribly wrong written communication can go, in the absence of punctuation. It is certainly not meant to demean the educational achievements of participants!
Let me give you an example, taken from a series I have been watching: Younger.
In one scene, the boyfriend sends a text message to the girlfriend (Sutton Foster)… “Sorry can’t make it work”…just like that, without any punctuation. How do you read the meaning here? Needless to say, she was very upset – as I am sure you would be too if you were totally invested in the relationship as Sutton was!
Instead of confronting him, she opted for the avoidance technique. When he finally caught up with her, he was bewildered by her offish stance towards him. “What’s wrong?” he enquired, to which she responded with something along the lines of “What do you think is wrong? I thought this thing wasn’t working”. He laughed and explained that she had misunderstood his message… what he meant was, “Sorry…can’t make it. [Got to] work.”
The power of punctuation!
Instead of assuming people will understand what we mean in the same way they would when talking to them in person, taking the time to correctly punctuate your sentences via text really can make the world of difference!
So… going back to the criticism from my client. Do we all need to go back to school to learn how to punctuate our sentences? No, I don’t think we do – but we do need to acknowledge the importance of this aspect of grammar, and how the failure to use it when speaking digitally can have disastrous consequences.
My apologies to anyone who may have taken my intention in the wrong way! And thank you to the client that offered me the opportunity to relook at this aspect of the workshop, which – after careful thought – will be staying.
Take care everyone.
Your partner in mental health at work,