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Jul 19

Charitable Interpretation

Harmonious interaction between bloggers, particularly Christian bloggers, is very important to me. Blogs have tremendous potential for bringing folks of diverse backgrounds together. They can also contribute to fracturing the Body Christ. One courtesy I ask of my commenters is to use "interpretive charity" (aka charitable interpretation). It means, among other things, that we should imagine the blogger or commenter we're about to smite with a withering retort as our dear, sweet grandmother. It also means we should attempt to address in advance ways in which our statements might be misunderstood. Why? Well, apparently textual communication leaves something to be desired. The following statements about email could easily be applied to blogging.

"Though e-mail is a powerful and convenient medium, researchers have identified three major problems. First and foremost, e-mail lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode meaning well. Second, the prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures e-mailers to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over e-mail makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict."

[…]

"To avoid miscommunication, e-mailers need to look at what they write from the recipient's perspective… One strategy: Read it aloud in the opposite way you intend, whether serious or sarcastic. If it makes sense either way, revise."

78% of email senders believe they are clearly communicating. 91% of email receivers believe they are correctly interpreting. 56% of the time, the receiver correctly interprets the message. I wonder what the stats for blog posts and comments would be.

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