The beep of an incoming message had me reaching for my phone. New text message. From a colleague and mate. Like me, he helps people get better at understanding each other and communicating better. The communication between us is some of the best work place comms I have ever experienced. Clear, precise and with each of us checking we have an actual understanding, rather than just an assumed one.
We'd exchanged a few short txts to clarify details of a meeting. We were pretty much done, so I expected his last message would be a simple confirmation.
So the txt baffled me. It was long. It was filled with heaps of detail about the meeting. It seemed to have an impatient tone about it - which would be fair enough. We'd been through the detail days ago.
I started quizzing myself about what it meant. I imagined him feeling frustrated, and wondered if the level of trust we had built had been damaged somehow. I felt mildly angry - does he think I'm stupid, or disorganised? Maybe both.
I sent back:
THANKS FOR THE DETAILS, I ALREADY HAVE ALL THAT. WAS THERE A REASON YOU SENT IT?
YES. YOU SENT ME 2 QUESTION MARKS
All of a sudden it was clear. He was responding to uncertainty from my end. But I had not sent 2 question marks. I had sent 2 thumbs up emojis, universally understood in our part of the world as "ALL GOOD".
Somewhere in the mobile network/smart phone universe my "ALL GOOD" had changed to "HUH?"
It was a moment when both of us could have acted on our frustration and sent messages back and forth that made the situation muddier and inserting little needles of damage into our otherwise excellent comms.
I often say that friction, tension or conflict, however slight, are an indication that there are different perspectives at play. Sometimes it also means blind spots are being created. If you become aware of of tension, friction or conflict pause and notice how you might react - I was on the verge of slightly crisp and sarcastic response to his txt. Switch on your curiosity and see if you can understand where the other person is coming from. Curiosity will create clarity.
And beware the emoji - regardless of what you meant, who knows what comes out the other side.