Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rushing to Respond

The other day, amid a mass of e-mail, I saw a message and a response that illustrate one of the dangers of communication.

The message contained a variety of items, starting with a major issue and then moving on to some seemingly minor ones in its wake.

The response dealt solely with the major point and glossed over the others. Given the urgency of the primary topic, that was understandable. Unlike the person who sent the response, however, I had the advantage of time and could see, tucked within the initial sender's list of "minor" items, the announcement of a setback that must have been jarring. It wasn't a death in the family or a matter of similar magnitude and yet it was pretty significant. Although the writer had chosen to mention it in passing, the news was far from trivial. The unwritten message in the single line was, "I'm wounded."

I have no doubt that although the sender buried his sad news in the forest of the message, he sought some consolation. None was given. A moment was lost. And I hate to think of how often, in my rush to send a reply, I've shot past similar expressions of pain from colleagues and friends.

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