It Isn't Just A Matter of Black and White

Jo Walker

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We network, by joining online communities, to promote our services; get advice from others or just plain “chat", and most of our time is spent sending, and responding to, e-mails. But have you considered that e-mail isn't just a matter of black and white.

It is very true that the written word can be misconstrued and that, when reading an e-mail, you can tend to misread the “tone" that the content is given in. This is very much the case when you are a part of a networking group when there are different professional opinions, races or religions.

We need to remember that we are only reading words, we are not seeing the facial expressions or hand gestures that people are using when trying to get over their point of view. We are not getting the “right sense" of emotion which comes out when being face to face with another. We have to interpret that emotion and there are times that we ALL go through, we will interpret incorrectly. It happens to all of us.

If you believe that an e-mail has been given in the wrong tone, don’t let it get to you, don’t take the written word in the wrong text. My tag line has always been “Your success is only defined by the boundaries YOU create". Don’t create boundaries over a comment that may have been taken the wrong way, and if you are having an off day don’t take it out on someone else or yourself. We all have our ups and downs, we all have a time where some comment is misconstrued and we all have times when we realise that hindsight is a good thing, until it affects ourselves.

We are all professionals in our own rights. There are those that have only been in business for a few weeks, there are those who have been in business for many years, but we are all professionals. We all have our own sense of what is correct and what isn’t. That is why being a part of online Business Support and Networking Groups like The Virtual Business Group ( is a must. You get to know what is in the hearts and minds of other business professionals; you get to know that there are shades of grey and that nothing is truly black and white.

There will never be ONE hard solution to a problem and not everyone will agree on what is best. What you will get are different outlooks on possible results to those problems and possible results that you might not have even thought of and that is why having so many brains to bounce off of is great.

If someone’s response isn’t what you wanted to hear don’t take it as criticism because that person has given you something truly special - their advice and it’s FREE. It may not be the right advice, it may not be complimentary, but in this type of business, (where you aren’t face to face with other work colleagues, bosses, advisors etc) the advice you get could be the advice you need only you didn’t realise you needed it until it hits you in an email.

If you do feel that you need to respond to an e-mail that you felt was unfair or uncomplimentary, respond as a professional. Before you even hit “reply” step away from the computer for five minutes. Take some time out. Go for a walk, water the houseplants, and check the real mail box or just chill. This will help you to calm down before responding. Don’t write from the heart, write from the head. Thank the respondent for their comments, tell them you will take their advice on board and let that be the end of it. Never “lash” back at them, it will only make things worse. You could find yourself stuck in the middle of some legal wrangling and that’s not what you need.

Take the advice, or comments, given in the e-mail in your stride, learn from mistakes and chalk it up to experience.

Copyright @2005, Jo Walker
You have permission to publish this article electronically free of charge, as long as the bylines and links in the body of the article and the bylines are included.

With a tip of the hat to the Lone Ranger, New Zealand Virtual Office Professional, Jo Walker, owner of thehomeoffice ( has earned the title “Kiwisabe, ” in honor of her heritage and a client’s conviction that she is a Kiwi who “knows a lot. ” She is also the Editor of The Virtual Summit Newsletter - a successful ezine produced by The Virtual Business Group (, a prominent global networking group for Virtual Service Providers.


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