Take the Time to Explain

In this age of email and text messaging, we often see evidence of taking short cuts and stating conflicting ideas to one another. In doing this, sometimes the spirit of the message is not understood and often interpreted a negative way. When this happens we sometimes have to spend even more time trying to explain ourselves to others because they now feel insulted by something we wrote to them. Sometimes we may place a different level of urgency, attention to detail, and thoroughness to the requested action. Often this misunderstanding in the level of importance results in anger in which one or multiple parties feel insulted and can result in the catastrophic failure of the intended action in the request.

Let us examine a famous situation in the past in which one could draw an example of misunderstanding in a text message: Communication between General Lee and General Ewell on 01 July 1863. In a “text message” Lee told Ewell to attack the enemy position “if practicable” and to “avoid a general engagement…”

Now keep in mind, from a historical point of view there is some debate as to the actual wording of the order, the documentation of the narrative of the order, eye witness accounts, colloquial mannerisms, and politics. But let us not focus on these factors. The point is that whatever the true desire for action that Lee had wanted from Ewell was not realized. As a result, Lee was disappointed and the outcome of this misunderstanding is often referred to as the point in the Civil War that decided the eventual victor (debatable).

The lesson here is that when something is important to us, we take the time to convey how and why something is important to us. We also need to take the time to expound upon the potential positive and negative results in order to better illustrate why someone’s full attention, best efforts, and love should be exercised in the execution of the request. If we are on the receivers of the request or comment we should ask questions so we better understand the gravity and context of what is being asked or stated.

We cannot complain about being let down if we did not take the time to explain ourselves or ask questions. Yes, it may be time consuming. If we truly desire the most positive outcome we will spend the time.

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