Friday, May 28, 2010

E-Mails and Spirituality…


Lately I’ve been noticing a little brusqueness in some of the e-mails traveling across the ethers. When we are overwhelmed, tired, pressured, or just plain stressed, it is easy to get so much to-the-point that we forget kindness.

We forget (or choose not) to pause and reflect with our hearts open before we shoot off an e-mail. What is really easy to not realize is that e-mails in particular can sound rude when you are simply being perfunctory. When we are communicating by e-mail, or any form of written communication for that matter, the receiver cannot see our faces or hear the inflection in our voice to experience our courtesy and regard for them. So in writing, functionality in one-on-one correspondence can come across as down-right rude. A brusque e-mail can come across more harshly than if you had spoken to the receiver out loud.

I think it is helpful for those of us in spiritual practice to remember that most communication does not occur in our choice of words. It occurs in the sounds of our voices, our facial expressions and gestures, AND the energy we are holding and emanating from our spirits.

Unless it is my intention to scare off my friends and colleagues, I’ve learned that I need to take great care when writing and to consciously bring warmth to my letters. Even a little bit of warmth in my writing seems to be received by people with gratitude and even delight. But I’ve also discovered it has to be authentic.

I’ve observed that if my energy is in a frustrated or exasperated place, even if I choose my words very carefully in writing so as not to offend the receiver and attempt to warm up the letter, by their response, I can tell they still picked up my energy. If I haven’t taken the time to clear my emotions and write from a place of spiritual balance, they can tell, and they respond to my state of unbalance.

Here are two interesting articles on e-mail etiquette that addresses how to create an appropriate “tone” for your e-mails: http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/internet/archives/page9167.cfm
http://www.netmanners.com/email-etiquette/are-your-e-mails-tone-deaf/

Even difficult issues can be addressed with kindness, if we first take the time and care to clear any emotional charge we may be feeling. I’m learning that before I address a difficult issue with someone in an e-mail, it is best if I meditate first, holding myself and my feelings about them in compassion, until I can feel compassion for them. Then it is time to write.

If I really need to get down to the nitty-gritty with someone, I do that in person if at all possible, and if not then at least a conversation over the phone gives them an opportunity to hear my voice. They might hear my concern or frustration, but I will also make sure they hear and have registered my care and regard for them.

In my opinion, e-mails are a good place for expressing care and regard, communicating opportunities, exploring possibilities, and deepening understanding between people, but it is not a good place for expressing frustration, anger or exasperation. Those feelings are better expressed in person, or at least over the phone where you can experience and hear the impact of what you are saying, and where you are going to be expected to listen to what the other person is experiencing as well as speak your peace. In-person and phone encounters suggest dialogue and resolution comes when we listen with open heart to our own concerns AND the concerns of others.

Brusqueness in e-mails is not the highest form of spiritual expression. Brusqueness is like being flippant, without regard for another’s feelings in the matter. And it is easier to do that in writing than it is voice-to-voice.

I’ve been challenging myself to consistently write e-mails from my kindness. Before I send it out, I read it to see if that is the kind of e-mail I would like to receive. I don’t think I’ve completely perfected my e-mail writing, but I do know that I like myself a lot better when I’m writing from a peaceful and kind frame of heart.