Relative’s text wasn’t funny

I texted a relative when they were at work and was a bit stung by their reply. Were they angry with me?

Take them at their word, says our elder. You’ve cleared the air with them, so don’t dwell on this anymore.

Dear EWC

Hello, I sent a text message to one of my relatives at their place of employment earlier today asking how they were and how work was going. They replied by sending a cartoon picture with the character saying “Can’t you see I’m busy”? Maybe they meant it to be funny. I felt that it was hurtful. I asked if they were angry because my text message interrupted their work day. They said no. Maybe I took the cartoon’s meaning the wrong way, but from my experience, “Can’t you see I’m busy” indicates that one person is upset with another. To avoid confusion or hurt feelings in the future, I told my relative that I won’t send any more text messages while they’re at work. Your thoughts regarding this situation would be very much appreciated.

Willow replies

It can be nearly impossible to determine someone’s intent from online communications. I can’t tell any more than you can whether your relative meant her message to be funny or not. You did the right thing to ask if your relative was angry about the text message and they said no. I think you need to take the person at their word, not overthink this and put the incident behind you.
In general, it’s never a good idea to text someone when you know they are at work. Their boss is not paying them to chat online when they’re supposed to be working and in some workplaces, texting on personal matters can have consequences. If that’s the case in your relative’s workplace, it’s possible that her cartoon picture response was something set up as an auto-response that would go to anyone who sent a text during the workday. It may not have been directed specifically to you at all. Please don’t take it to heart. It’s unlikely the message was meant to be hurtful to anyone.
But whether the message was supposed to be funny or hurtful doesn’t really matter. What is important is that you spoke up, cleared the air with your relative, established they weren’t angry, and know in the future not to contact them during the workday. There is plenty of time after working hours to ask them how their day went. I urge you not to dwell on this incident any further.
I hope you’ve found my perspective on your letter helpful for putting your mind at ease. Thank you for writing to the EWC and feel free to write again if we can help with a different issue.

Letter #: 455626
Category: Family

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