Photo Credit Kyle Ponce
Lately I‘ve received some potentially dangerous communication. The results could have been catastrophic if I jumped to the wrong conclusions. Also, I’ve been left in limbo waiting for important information from people I messaged. My imagination ran wild considering why they are either ignoring me or purposely keeping me in the dark. Maybe they just didn’t know how their unresponsiveness is getting to me?!
In any kind of work but particularly in youth ministry, catastrophic communication blunders must be avoided at all cost. Here are the most disastrous mistakes to avoid:
1. Don’t communicate
If you leave people guessing they will assume the worst –anger and resentment could grow!
Avoiding unpleasant topics or confrontation makes matters worse. Avoidance is an immature response. Mature leaders make a point of communicating clearly in a timely manner.
Last minute information will drive parents and volunteers crazy. It is crucial to get information to people as soon as possible. Never procrastinate when you need to communicate.
Expecting that people understood when you mumble some incoherent response isn’t really communicating. Never assume that people got you the first time. Either get direct feedback that they have understood or communicate all information in three different ways.
2. Don’t respond
This is just plain ignorant. When you ignore someone’s email or message you will make them angry. If you need time to think about your response, don’t pretend you didn’t receive their communication. Let them know that you got it and that you will get back to them. Always acknowledge that you received the voice, text, or whatever kind of message it was.
3. Don’t filter
Some people fire off poorly written, emotional emails. I don’t know if they are trying to be funny, look cool, or just don’t care how their communication will be received. The results can be terrible. One word answers or emotional rants can be cutting and rude.
Also, sending to a group or cc ing to a supervisor is a power game that can be harmful. Choose the right audience and always consider how you would feel if you receive this kind of communication.
Emails or other kinds of communication that are not well prepared can and will be taken the wrong way. Reread and edit your email, or messages (better than we edit our blogs!)
Think five times before you hit “SEND.” You may even want to sleep on it, if it is an emotional issue. Better still, set up a meeting after you have had a chance to think it through. Be sure to tell them what the meeting is about. It is emotional black mail to tell some that you need to talk about something and you won’t tell them what the topic is in advance. People who play these kinds of power games should not be in the ministry.
One more thing about filtering. Your emails can be forwarded to others, or posted somewhere on the internet. Be very careful about issues of confidentiality!
4. Don’t double check
Some people don’t spell check their work. I often receive papers where the student meant to talk about the Gentiles but spell check changed it to genitals. –Not something you want to be sending to your junior high students!
If you want to be respected as a leader and as a professional, you will have to be very careful with your texts, emails, and other forms of communication.
Each of us is evaluated on our ability to communicate. If this is a weak area for you, be extra careful to have your written work proof read. Another safeguard is to use “grammar check” on, on your computer. It will pick up on things that you won’t.
5. Don’t choose the right approach
Don’t you hate it when your name is attached to a massive group message and you keep getting notifications any time anyone responds?
You’ve probably heard horror stories of someone being dumped by email. If you are communicating to parents, students, or volunteers please communicate as personally as possible. Sending out promotional material or basic details can be done in bulk but dealing with anything emotional should be done in person.
The best measure is the sensitivity or seriousness of the topic. If there is any possibility of causing offence, please choose a face to face encounter where the other person can see your body language and hear the tone of your voice.
Here are some more ideas from Mind Tools if you want to read further on this topic.