Gracious Communication in the Internet Age: What Works?

Today was going along just fine — productive, happy, and relatively stress free — until a certain email crossed my desk.

The name and subject of the email will be withheld so that hopefully I can forget this dialogue ever happened. Suffice it to say, I read the initial email which was a request for action. I held it in my inbox, not responding as I was working on other items, and soon received a second email. The second email contained a renewed request, more strongly worded than the first. Without pausing to pray, I concluded the action that had been requested and fired off a relatively curt response. The two initial emails were “filed”, taking them away from my attention.

About thirty minutes later, I received a third email, offering an apology. The emailer felt that they surely must have offended me, to receive such an officious response. This emailer knew me well enough to note that an email containing not a single “!” or “lol” was surely out of character.

Emails flew back and forth between the two of us, apologizing for offending and having been offended. I fessed up to an overabundance of work and tried to lighten the mood, but in reality I actually was offended. In the end, I prayed, for the emailer, and for my own forgiveness in having overreacted.

Oh what a tangled web we weave with our modern forms of communication. So easy to jump to false conclusions, so quick to judge and be judged. So simple to “write off” relationships simply because we’ll likely never meet in real life. So many words, so little true feeling…

The interaction has me feeling a bit dirty and a lot in need of the Sacrament of Penance.

Was it my fault? Who knows.

Will I let it happen again any time soon? Hopefully not.

How do you avoid miscommunication in your online endeavors?

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at

  • erin

    Hey Sissy,
    Just wanted to tell you that I’m reading and I’m very proud of you and love you. Hope you told Bishop Jenky hi for me!

    • lisahendey

      Oh you, thanks for the best smile I’ve had all day. Even if you are married to an old man! Call me tonight on your way home!

  • Bonnie

    Great column Lisa. I particularly appreciate it when recipients of my Tweets/FB posts/emails/texts/calls/messages and comments realize that I am the center of the universe and must be responded to immediately (if not sooner as Sr. Ellen O’Connor, SND used to say) and then I wake up and realize, oh yeah I am NOT the center of the universe. I can relate to the sender who wants an immediate response but we all need to remember that people can’t tri-locate like they used to in the good ole’ days.


  • Leslie Lenko

    When ever I send an e-mail request to someone on a business or personal matter, I never expect a response right away. We are all busy with family, work, church commitments, etc. That must have been a difficult moment but we all learn that in difficult, strange moments how to handle them with grace. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are very considerate of others.