One Out of Four Ain't Great

Why email and text messages are dangerous business for nuance-starved ADHDans like me.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman

The other big hazard of email (and IMs), and one that those gathering around this particular campfire should pay particular attention to is that due to the abbreviated, bare-bones nature of the medium, nuance disappears. Let's say we're sitting vis-á-vis and having a nice chat. Even if your attention span is as addled as mine, at some level you'll be aware of four streams of communication: my words themselves, my tone of voice, my facial expression and my body language. If we're talking on the phone, we're down to two sources, my words and my tone of voice. Email, text message, IM, chat: words. Only words. And probably not the most carefully assembled, went-to-the-dictionary-and-considered-every-possible-meaning words. Oh, no.

More like, if-I-could-type-faster-I'd-have-more-to-say words. Without the winks, smiles, heavy breathing, fist-clenching, room-pacing clues to meaning that help us in our face to face discourse. These implications that say "I may look angry, but I'm really proud of you," never appear, and your listener leaves with an inaccurate sense of your intentions or emotions.

ADHDans are notoriously poor at reading these clues anyway. We don't see the condemnation behind the polite smile, nor the boredom lurking under the attentive expression, in the best of circumstances. When we eliminate three out of four possible means of conveying our meanings, and understanding the intentions of others, we're often way out over our skis, headed for a nasty tumble.

The dangers in e-communication are inherent and universal. Those of us whose focus is less than perfect should at least get in the habit of taking a breath and re-reading what we've written before we click on "SEND."

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