Friday, November 20, 2015

Silence and Communication

In trying to connect, I have experimented with finding what suits different people. I have never liked the phone. You lose body language. Some people love the phone, so at stages I have got into a habit of giving people a call. Because that is their preferred method of contact. My grandparents love a weekly call on a Sunday. When I am being a good grandson, I do that. Often I end up caught up in whatever I am doing and drop the pattern. A few weekends pass, and I realise it is no longer a part of what I do. No longer a part of my collection of habits.

Whatsapp is one method of staying in touch I have found very useful. It does drive some people nuts though. They moan that they arrive back to streams of messages, or that their phones keeping buzzing incessantly. The second problem is, in my mind, an easy one to solve. I put my phone on silent about 7 years ago. I will turn the sound on when I am specifically expecting a call. Before cellphones, we used to have to arrange to call someone. Appointments. I think that is the way forward. Things are very seldom an emergency. There is a real cost to thinking it is okay to interrupt whatever people are doing. I check my phone often enough, when it suits me, to be okay with calling people back. The advantage of silence is that Whatsapp doesn't irritate me at all. 

The first issue can probably be solved in the way I reunderstood Twitter. Twitter is not like Facebook. You don't have a wall. A friend described Twitter as more like a river that you can dip in to as an when you need to. You don't need to fear 'missing out'. I think we should treat other communication forms in a similar way. As an example, when people get back from leave, I think they should be able to delete all the messages in their inbox. Start from scratch. If it is important, someone will get back to them. 
We do this with non-technological communication already. You don't have a recording of everything that friends have said. You catch up with them. Yes, there is repetition, but that is how the important stuff gets embedded. We say things. If they are important, we say them again. The truth is, even if you are listening to someone, you are only hearing a fraction of what they are saying anyway. You lose concentration and your mind wanders. You wait for an opportunity to speak. Your understanding gets tweaked. Then they repeat.

I don't like the phone. But there are people I care about who only use that form of communication. If I really want to stay in touch, I need to adjust to whatever way it is other people want to share. Between Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, Letters, Phonecalls, Coffee, Email, Blogs and Pictures... there is now a broad menu to choose from. A former colleague of mine started using Snapchat because it was the best way to chat to his son. Sometimes you need to get out of your communication comfort zone if someone really matters to you.

Ironically, the best way to start being better at staying in touch is to put your phone on silent, and not expect people to answer 24/7.

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