Scouts-L Mail Archive for April of 1999: Offline Courtesy
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 23:00:02 -0400
Over the last several months I've heard from a number of members of this
list that they have received from other list members e-mails that were
snide, rude, or otherwise less than courteous.
Sometimes the complaining member misunderstood the incoming e-mail or was
over sensitive to its contents. Communicating by e-mail is sometimes a lot
more demanding and difficult than face-to-face communications. We lose all
the wonderful cues that we are used to having. You can't see the other
person's facial expressions, a twinkle of mischief, a smile or knod of
agreement, or a shift in posture that would tell you so much. All you have
are the bare words without any context in a very flat medium. This can
result in misunderstandings.
In reading e-mail we all need to be aware that there are nearly 2000 people
on the list. These 2000 people are from all walks of life. They are from
communities all around the globe. Scouting experience may range from 50
years to just registered yesterday. As a result some questions may be
complex or at first glance appear to be very elementary. And because the
membership of the list continually changes, a new person may ask a question
that was just thrashed out a month ago.
In answering questions, we need to remember the same things. When I went to
National Camp School to become a nature/ecology director in the dark ages,
one of the best lessons I learned was to remember that when a Scout showed
up with the 700th frog of the season, it was the Scout's first frog and to
show enthusiasm for that first frog. The instructor had a huge sign under
the dining fly that stayed there all week with the words "Remember it's his
first frog" just to make the point.
Well we have a lot of first frogs here on this list and when we work with
Scouts. And whether we are working with Scouts or other adults, we need to
keep remembering that it is his/her first time too. How would you have
wanted to be treated the first time around? Well that's the way to treat
"first" time questions. Show the same amount of kindness that you wished
you had received when you were learning the ropes.
Try to visualize each person that you write to in their Scout uniform
standing proud for trying to do their best to help young people with a smile
on their face. Now if you couldn't walk up to them and say what you think
you want to say in an e-mail, then don't say it in an e-mail. Instead think
of what you would say and how you would say it to a friend. After all each
member of the list is a fellow Scout or Scouter.
Yep, we all have our faults and shortcomings. No one of us has a perfect
day every day. And so sometimes we say things we ought not to and maybe
don't say things in the right way. So when you are receiving mail, I would
suggest the same sort of thing. Try to visualize the person and understand
where he or she is coming from. Many times the person may be trying their
best to be helpful, but just not very artful in their choice of words.
Sometimes discussions get heated and feelings can run high. When that
happens, be careful about what you want to write. If you feel like telling
somebody off or really cutting somebody down to size, then its time to put
that e-mail on the back burner for a day or two until you've cooled off.
Most of the time if you wait a day or so, you won't want to send quite the
same e-mail. If you still feel that urge, ask yourself how you would feel
if someone sent you the same e-mail. If the answer is that you would be hurt
or mad, then don't send it.