"Words are like whirlpools - they move sometimes"

28th January 2006, 00:31
The title of this thread is a line from one of my favourite Cher songs - "If I could turn back time".

Most of the users of SN are professionals who have spent their lives in the MN. I am also a professional but have spent the last 25 years of my life working in the IT industry. I have used email and various other computer based communications throughout this period. This note is some reflections on my experience of how communications can get distorted and meanings misinterpreted if you are not very careful. I am sorry if this sounds like a statement of the obvious but believe me it is not for many people. This is evidenced by a number of recent exchanges on SN that I have read with a sinking heart and which has prompted me to write this.

When you speak to someone face to face, a great deal of the communication is non-verbal. You pick up on whether a person is joking, whether they are angry, being ironic etc. from body posture and facial expressions. That ain't there with email, bulletin boards etc. - all that is left is the words.

The English language is an exquisite tool for communication - expressive, flexible, extensible and precise (or sloppy); and also ambiguous and capable of misinterpretation. How many times have you said something to a partner or friend and they have taken offence because they interpreted it differently to what you intended to say? I have to admit that in my case it is too many times to mention, and I like to think I am careful with language. That is what I meant by the title of this thread - and indeed was the message of the song from which it comes.

So what is this idiot blathering on about? Basically it is a plea to people posting to SN to think how what they are saying will be taken by the person reading it. A smack in the gob is certainly a form of communication, but more likely to result in a fight than meaningful conversation. There is a very good reason why sites like SN provide smilies or emoticons - to allow you to fill in the gap of the missing non-verbal communication. If you are joking - use a smilie so people know. If you are not, and are saying something potentially offensive - probably better not say it at all - or if you must, at least send it via a personal message rather than putting it on a thread for everyone to see. There is a term for offensive emails and postings - "flaming". You would be amazed how much offence and bad feelings flaming can cause.

I have come across at least 4 cases over the last few weeks where people have said that they have come close to stopping using SN because of hurtful postings by others. That is really sad and I would like to think it has been caused by a lack of thought by people making postings rather than a deliberate wish to be offensive or antagonistic. There is room for many shades of opinion here - life is not black and white/right and wrong.

(End of lecture - gets down off soapbox - exits stage right) (Hippy)

28th January 2006, 00:45
Very true. (Applause)
Point taken. (Thumb)
Being of a rather sarcastic bent, will have to change my signature to a smile! (*))

28th January 2006, 01:04
(Applause) Unlike the spoken word, the written word can be lost in translation to the individual. (Read)

28th January 2006, 02:51
(Applause) Unlike the spoken word, the written word can be lost in translation to the individual. (Read)
Hear, Here: I think I could be one of the guilty party...but I plead innocent your honour...I have always tried to stick to the old saying of a mate of mine from Musselborough...'If you can't say a nice thing about a person...then, say nothing at all!" I don't always succeed...I sometimes... (Night)

28th January 2006, 04:19
Brian, very timely and very well said, it was a lecture that needed to be given, and I happen to agree that the members on this site would rarely, if ever, intentionally give offence, but the odd slip of the tongue can sometimes happen and hurt quite badly.

28th January 2006, 05:53
I have fallen foul of what benjidog refers to on a few occasions, especially when I have been sending phone texts to friends and aquaintances. What you are going to say really does need to be thought through first (especially by me!). Offending some people can all too easily occur these days without it being realised by the sender. (EEK)

28th January 2006, 10:17
Very well put benjidog. Guess I have been guilty a few times. My apologies to anyone i have offended by miss wording things. been a problem with me for years, often forget to make sure the brain is in operation before opening my mouth. Got a good mouthful of scouse knuckles for it once ... He was right, I was in the wrong.

Harry Nicholson
28th January 2006, 10:30
Thats very timely Brian, thanks. I've been feeling a bit bruised and have been thinking I should get out of here for my peace of mind. If I did go there are some of you I would greatly miss.

fred henderson
28th January 2006, 12:21
Very well said Brian and thank you. In a face to face conversations we can see the effects our clumsy words have on our audience and correct the wrong impression we have made. In electronic communication, Smilies help, but they are not a substitute for care and consideration in our choice of words. Thank you for the reminder.

Freds (Thumb)

jim barnes
28th January 2006, 12:40
as is well known"The pen is mightier than the sword" or should it now be "The keyboard is mightier than the sword" (EEK) (*))
i must hold my hands up often my words are more menacing than intended? the PRIDE OF BILBAO is a great opertunity for those able to come and put a face to these communications and maybe put a different light to future postings( No fighting onbard will be tolerated (Thumb) ) (Hippy)

Frank P
28th January 2006, 22:19
Very well said Brian,
I could not agree with you more!!!!!!!!! (Thumb)


29th January 2006, 02:02
I unfortunately hav,nt been a computer user for as long as the author of
this thread,in the last 3 yrs I have been in a lot of forums,and there are
always a**eholes,whether their actions are deliberate or ignorance,it
does,nt matter,and they mostly only ''bounce'' once.
I think we have to remember,that most of SN,s members are ex mariners
of sorts,where ''extracting the urine''was,and probably still is an ''art form'' (*)) (*)) (*))

29th January 2006, 02:35
Your comments were extremely interesting & I have copied them for future reference.One thought I had was that they could be sent to joining members.One other factor that probably influences our written word is that most of us are not good typists & are always tending to cut corners with effects never meant. KIWI

29th January 2006, 09:17
Yes Benjidog Well said, I no doubt have been guilty of offending and to those to whom I may have offended my apologies.

John Rogers
29th January 2006, 14:33
Hit the mark benjidog, may i suggest a forum for the AH then they can insult each other. Insulting AH..has a ring to it doesn't it.

31st January 2006, 18:47
Right first time Benjidog!


" you despise me don't you ? "

peter lewis
31st January 2006, 19:07
well said bengi i totally agree with every thing youve said a very well thought out thread

non descript
1st February 2006, 08:33
Brain, well done for a well written and well thought out posting. Very eloquent and to the point; thank you.