Watch Your Tone

by | Feb 13, 2017 | Legal Process

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As a lawyer, I am a big fan of putting things in writing so we have a paper trail.

When a client says a soon-to-be ex is threatening or lying, I need proof. The court needs proof. It can’t just be anecdotal based on all the baggage of the relationship over the years.

However, there’s a danger to putting things in writing, especially email or text – as it’s hard to interpret tone and intention.

A lot of times in court, when people don’t get along, the judge or referee will say put everything in writing, in an email or a text, but many times, even with people we get along with, we read something and interpret it differently than it’s meant to be.

This is such an important topic, especially as we face a new year. While we look ahead and see what the horizon promises, we also need to take a few steps back and breathe.

Don’t react immediately.

When a text that evokes an emotional reaction comes in, or an email, let it sit. Revisit it the next day, once you’ve had time to consider its meanings.

As hard as it may be, give the sender the benefit of the doubt. Even if it’s your ex!

Honestly, you can’t tell if somebody is mad or being snide in distant forms of communication like these. The wink wink emoticons don’t sufficiently represent a serious or light-hearted tone. It’s one-dimensional.

That said, don’t create a problem when there’s not a problem. How many times have we all done that!

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Recently, I worked with a divorcing couple, where the wife asked for right of first refusal when the husband needs coverage for the kids on his parenting time. She’s not working full time, so on his days, she wanted to be able to pick up the kids from school, to save him money by not needing to have a babysitter.

The couple texted back and forth and the communication got mixed up. He got mad, thinking she was trying to usurp his parenting time, and he threatened to ask for full custody.

She panicked.

He was assuming she wanted the kids overnight after picking them up. She simply wanted the after-school time instead of a babysitter.

Only when we were working together, in person, with counsel representing both sides, did they begin to understand intention. And calm down.

Texting and emailing is so convenient. We’re always running around and busy as can be, but sometimes these forms of communication are not helpful. In fact, they can often be the reason we have strife.

It’s important that we all give the benefit of the doubt and think really clearly before sending – or interpreting – that next text or email.

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