In today’s fast-paced digital world, more and more communications are being done in writing. Every day we communicate with a quick text or an email. How often do you respond to a post or instant message on Facebook?

Having so many options to quickly communicate is convenient, but it can be costly. There are inherent dangers associated with quick written communications. This is especially true when those communications are emotionally charged or controversial in nature.

When communication is done in writing, the receiver may not have everything they need to accurately process the message. It is up to the receiver to determine the tone of the conversation without any additional input from the sender. This makes it easy for the receiver to jump to the wrong conclusions. When they do interpret the message incorrectly, their reaction may be unpredictable and defensive.

When the receiver becomes defensive, they usually react in writing. They send a response that may surprise and anger the original sender. The sender’s mind begins to race and they may jump to the wrong conclusion as well. Before you know it, the exchange of communication is fast and furious, and can be far removed from the true intent of the original message.

Conversely, when communicating in person, the listener hears the words that you speak. They sense the tone and the volume as you speak them. They see your body language, too. With multiple sources of input, the chances of misunderstandings are significantly reduced.

A good rule of thumb to remember is this one. If you cannot finish the communication with a genuine, heartfelt “thank you,” it would be better to deliver this message personally, and not in writing.

Try this the next time you are about to respond in writing and sense there are some emotions involved. It may prevent one of your relationships from becoming a casualty of poor communications.

Bill Nordbrock is vice president of community relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment at several locations. For information, go to, send an email to or call 505-3636.