I wanted to discuss something that applies not only to WoW, but business communication as well as all forms of personal communication over the internet.
Internet Communication, to me, is about taking your own personal real life communication habits and transferring/molding them to a medium that doesn’t follow the same rules, pacing, and social etiquette. My brain you see, it does not handle this well at ALL and it causes me a lot of issues.
In real life, when you talk with someone there are a lot of markers and clues that you need to pick up on to determine the level of interest of your communication partner as well as their mood, level of ease/comfort, and diplomacy level towards you. This is generally vital for proper speech and many rely much more on these markers than others.
For me, even as a *cough* slightly older gamer, I’m still learning how to master social graces. If someone shifts uncomfortably I will tend to notice, if their tone is off I will notice, if they seem hesitant and keep their distance I absolutely notice and respect that. These markers are different for everyone and will vary greatly whether you’re trying to find a potential romantic interest, discuss business with a colleague or contact, or talk with friends and family. Reading these signals wrong, or reacting to them incorrectly can completely steer the course of your conversation in the wrong direction or, in the worst case, make you look like a creep/idiot/jerk. You might not intend to but it sure can go that route if you aren’t careful.
I am fairly verbose…and sometimes long winded. In real life I can be fairly eloquent when dealing with potential customers, which I think is the reason I do so well interfacing with them. I write long well crafted e-mails when necessary to customers and co-workers alike detailing everything that is pertinent to the situation. I have learned over the years to reign it in some as walls of text are often off-putting to those who sift through lots of e-mails daily.
How does this have anything to do with the internet and WoW you ask
Ever since I was young I have chatted on the internet. From the days of AOL chat rooms, to AIM/ICQ, to IRC and mIRC, message boards etc. I have become extremely comfortable at putting my emotions down into writing for people to see. Not everyone is like that I have come to realize. It isn’t that they have any less interest in communicating with me (or you). It is simply that not everyone communicates in the same form online, especially when it is asynchronous dialogue.
Without the context of hand gestures, body language, tone of voice, etc. it is extremely difficult for me to have any idea how the other person (be in chat or work e-mail) is feeling when they write back. My brain goes into analysis and worry mode and I try to root out just what was meant by their communique. This can be very dangerous.
When you write as much as I do, and am as wordy as I am, one of the worst things I can get back in a work e-mail is a sentence fragment response. The first thought in my head is “yeesh, no need to be snippy about it”. This is of course completely the wrong way to think about it.
In WoW and in the mediums surrounding it you will deal with asynchronous communication all of the time:
-Whispers/Tells in WoW are hardly always answered immediately as people are often fairly busy
-Message board topics can often go for a little while before someone responds to you
-Forum direct messages may for for hours or a day before getting read
-That application you put in on a guild’s website is going to take days for review and feedback
Understanding why there are gaps in communication and convincing your brain…well lets be honest my brain…that it isn’t because they are mad or disapprove of what you said is an incredibly difficult task.
…except when it IS because they are mad or disapprove of what you said.
There’s the rub. There’s really no way to read it easily enough because in real life you’d get that immediate feedback from the person in real time. Online you don’t have that luxury and must rely purely on your gut reaction about the matter at hand. If you are a worrier, like I am, this can be really frustrating. It has led to me not being as social or clique-y in guilds that I have been in because I struggle to communicate and settle into a comfortable zone with the people around me. I do consider it a bit of a handicap for me in terms of internet communication.
So what have I learned
1.) I will piss people off. It’s natural that you are not going to be all unicorns and rainbows with people and you will rub people the wrong way JUST BY BEING YOU. That’s it. There’s nothing you can do to help it, some people will just hate your personality. Trying to fix it with rationalization and logic will never solve anything.
2a.) Patience is critical. Learn to not assume someone is agitated with you if they don’t respond immediately. While in real life this is true, asynchronous communication means that they won’t always have immediate access (or the time) to respond to you.
2b.) If they do respond, and it is short and to the point, do not assume they are irritated with you. If someone is irritated, and too passive aggressive to let you know, then it isn’t your fault. You just keep on trying to be yourself and be honest with your dialogue.
Note: If you fail and 2a or 2b and follow up your communication with multiple additional forms of communication because you are worried, you will often immediately trigger actual irritation with you that might not have occurred natural. I am guilty of this I will admit.
3.) Understand that not everyone writes at the same level as you. This isn’t a knock on education or vocabulary. Some people hate typing or writing anything of length. They may also just be really really busy. Keeping this in mind, maybe we should try to keep what we say to a minimum. For me, at work, I tailor the length of my e-mails based on the person I am interacting with and their likelihood of finishing the entire document.
4.) Don’t wear your heart on a sleeve. While the internet is a wonderful place to bear your emotions, you should know your target audience. Putting to much emotion or personal flair into something can have two negative side effects. The first is that it can be offputting to your recipient if the communication should have been more business like. The second is that the recipient might not share your sentiment or might think it is outright foolish. This can lead to your feelings being hurt.
5.) Don’t nag.
I am not particularly good at communicating on the internet, however these are some things am working on doing to improve my own efforts. You’ll still see “Worry Wort Jarre” out there asking if he’s done something to offend you but understand it comes from a good place! I know I will continue to work on it and I hope that everyone else is as well.