I have many friends who admit (and I admit as well), to using e-mail as a way to shy away from confrontation. You know the way it goes "I was going to call you, but it is late, so I thought I would just e-mail instead . . . ." Translation: "This is hard for me and not having to look you in the eyes makes it easier." "I'll just hide out in the dark here for a bit."
So how can we embrace our electronic culture by using the time-saving and social networking opportunities it provides, but keeping integrity and strength of purpose along the way? Here are a few simple thoughts:
1. Wait 24 hours. Before engaging with a relational issue via e-mail, wait a day to think, pray, and reflect on the situation. You will likely feel differently about the immediate issue if you give yourself a day to think and ask for insight from other sources.
2.Never reply out of anger. Do your best to release feelings of anger or frustration before you respond. If you are deeply wounded, e-mail is probably not your best avenue for communication. Making the phone call or scheduling the meeting is essential if your pain or anger is deep. It is also the more difficult path, but it is the one that most honors the process and highlights hope for reconciliation.
3. Make time to just talk. Do your best to create buffers in your schedule where you can connect with others in person. This may mean scheduling your meetings farther apart or lingering a bit longer during a soccer game or school drop off. If you create space to talk with people in person, the amount of relational work you do via e-mail can diminish.
4. Always sign your name and if you feel comfortable, provide contact information for follow up. A screen name can hide our identities. Sometimes this is desired, but when it comes to personal communication and confrontation, Skaterbabe4God is too ambiguous. Signing off with your name and contact information is an integrity filled way to end or open the door to continue a conversation.
Taking the time to think through the dynamics of electronic communication will honor the people and relationships in your life the way God honors them. Honestly, openly, and in a way that gives life to the community rather than the second guesses and fear that can land in our inbox.