When I was listening to President Obama’s farewell speech, some of his words and sentences really struck me quite aside from the political context in which they were spoken.

Now I am not making any political statement at all here, but I do want to take one sentence in particular and focus on that for what it is.

“If you are tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life.”

Quite a powerful message for relationships, conversations and connections in general.

Working with some young people, I have often seen that many are able to send texts, whatsapp messages, snapchat, instagram, twitter messages etc but struggle with “real life” conversations face to face.

What is the impact of sending messages that we would never actually say to someone’s face?

I have to confess that I have sometimes sent emails rather than speaking direct to someone, as a means of avoiding the conflict – and occasionally as a means of expressing strong feelings without having to face direct “come back”.

The problem with electronic messages is that it can be very easy to say things we wouldn’t feel able to face to face – and sometimes that can go to extremes.

Whatever “tone” I may write that message in, the recipient inevitably reads the message in their “tone of voice” – and so much offence, misinterpretation or confusion can result.

What would it feel like to receive the message you have just posted on facebook or twitter?

My basic premise these days is that if you would not like to receive that message yourself, then don’t send it.

But they do get sent in the heat of the moment – sometimes by default, and sometimes with intent.

And the conflicts, vitriol, complaints, misunderstandings and recriminations escalate.

So, if you want a different outcome from online exchanges, the power is in your hands……Think about it.

And if you work with online counselling and coaching…..Think about it even more.

Think before you write.

Think after you have written.

Think before you click “send”.