Why Not To Resolve Conflicts Via Email

Those of you who have read this blog for a while probably remember my posts about the conflict that exists between my friends A and B.  Recently, A has been on a mission to set things right with B.  He felt that it would be in his best interests to sit B and me down for a meeting to hash things out.  However, it is pretty difficult to get B and me in the same location because we both have busy schedules and we live in different cities.  As a result, A did something that I would never advise anyone to do–he attempted to describe this thoughts on the whole situation via email.

Yesterday, I noticed that B had mentioned me on Twitter.  I assumed that it was in reference to our fraternity’s national conference.  After all, we both were in the process of packing our luggage so that we could fly down to Atlanta for the rest of the week.  That was not the case.  Instead of tweeting something lighthearted and humorous about out coming journey to Atlanta, B was venting about this horrible email that A had sent to us.  The details of the letter are not relevant (though those of you who follow my personal Twitter account know that I was definitely fuming upon reading it).  Nonetheless, this incident provides a clear example of what happens when conflicts are handled via email.

Email is not a good means of handling conflicts for the following two reasons:

People are bolder behind a computer screen than they are in person.

Anybody who has ever read the comments after a news article on the internet can attest to the fact that people say some crazy things.  I used to blame it on the anonymity that the internet offers.  Then I began to notice that some people actually log into these websites using their real names.  In fact, many of these sites require commenters to log-in through their Facebook, Twitter, or Google accounts, which are not often connected to pseudonyms.  At this point, I am starting to think that the advent of social media has made people a lot less cognizant of the impact of their words.  Although I am not sure at this point, I would like to believe that A would have handled himself better if he had met with us in person.

People may forget what you said, but they can keep copies of what you wrote.

A few years ago, during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, the media began analyzing Michelle Obama’s college-level thesis in order to suggest that she was a racist.  Keep in mind that Michelle Obama had graduated from Princeton several years earlier and had only written the paper to fulfill the requirements for her degree.  I am confident that she did not expect for the things she had written in her past could come end up having an adverse effect on her husband’s bid for the presidency, but written documents last forever–even emails.  There have been a lot of instances in the media lately when controversial emails were leaked for the purpose of damaging someone’s character thereby exemplifying that writing vicious (or generally questionable) emails is a risk that is not worth taking.  (I know what you’re thinking.  No, I won’t post or release A’s email.  It’s not worth it.)

In the end, only God knows whether B and I will be able to repair our friendship with A.  Conflicts between friends are always rough and A’s actions aren’t making this one any easier.  For now, we’re just keeping the situation in prayer and making the best of the remainder of our fraternity’s national conference.

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About Spencer

Spencer T. Clayton is a typical millennial who believed his mother when she told him that he was capable of accomplishing great things (and as a result has amassed a large amount of student loan debt). When he isn’t blogging, he is either out with friends, writing and performing music, or busy working as an Executive Pastor and Consultant while simultaneously pursuing a PhD in Public Affairs.

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