resolving miscommunication part 4: technology be damned (2 of 2)

so yesterday we covered the evils of Facebook and texting  when it comes to communication break down.  today we’re going for the jugular on phone calls and email.

whaaaaaa?  you say like a cartoon character.

yes.  phone calls and email.  most of the time they use their power for good, but in the hand of an evil mastermind or a pissed off girlfriend, they can be used for much, much bad.

i used the numbers 1 & 2 yesterday, so let’s go with 3 & 4 today.

3.  phone calls – there is nothing innately wrong with communicating by phone.  it’s probably one of the single greatest inventions since fire.  but when you use it as a weapon, your smart phone becomes a relationship hand grenade.  while face to face is always better, if a phone call is the only option, follow a couple basic rules and you should make it out alive…

  • timing – pick a time that is convenient for both of you.  you are shooting for optimal head space to resolve an issue.  blindsiding someone while he’s at work and demanding all of his attention right that second or it’s over?  so not reasonable.  that is selfish and bratty.  calling her when you know she’s in the middle of a baby shower and launching into a diatribe?  makes you a jerk and a bully.  make sure you are both calm, alert (no exhausted middle of the night calls) and well fed, we don’t want low blood sugar to end you.
  • stay reasonable – knowing she can’t see your face doesn’t mean you can roll your eyes and make yapping motions with your hands.  it’s disrespectful when she’s looking at you and it’s disrespectful when she’s not.  those types of things color your response whether you can see each other or not.  no hanging up.  that is childish and petty.  if the person on the other end is losing it and being verbally abusive, if only for your own peace of mind, say, “i’m going to hang up now.  call me back when you’re calm and are ready to talk.”  then go ahead and move on to greener pastures if you’re dating someone that nuts.

4.  email – once upon a time, everyone knew how to write.  it was a life skill, not a bonus.  the written word was the only way to communicate over distance and even those who were considered not well educated knew how to get their point across with the correct emotion.  not so anymore.  people no longer understand they are writing for a specific audience of 1 and the crafting of the words needs to be more external than internal.

  • know you’re audience – write to that person.  do not use words and phrases you know they will be offended by or bring up old history to put them off balance.  keep it kind, clear and concise.  use as much alliteration as possible.  
  • don’t write when you’re angry – cut yourself a break.  write what you need to write when you are in a relatively good mood.  wonder objective powers, activate!  being in a good head space will make you more objective about what you need to own that has contributed to the problem.  make sure you include that.
  • stay on topic – i once received an email that outlined every offense i had committed against a friend for the previous 3 years.  it was all news to me.  the point was get me to apologize for every infraction.  i think there was somewhere around 30.  i simply hit delete.  keep the issue/s current and relevant to the solution.  let go of any minor things that can be let go of and focus on what is really hurting you.
  • don’t be a coward – do not hide behind your ability to write well.  the person you are trying to communicate with may not have the same skill and feel at a disadvantage.  if you can get face to face, do that.  email can seem like an ambush unless there is no other way to get it done.

what have i missed?  how is technology making things harder on relationships?  how is it making things easier?


20 comments on “resolving miscommunication part 4: technology be damned (2 of 2)

  1. Mandy Rausch says:

    “do not hide behind your ability to write well”

    I may or may not be guilty of this…rarely on purpose, though…I don’t *think* I do it maliciously. Eeek. This is a good one.

  2. *cough*you’re=your*cough*

    I would say the only significant thing you’ve missed in your list is voicemail. Whether or not to leave a voicemail message and what to leave if you do.

    A few don’ts:

    1) Anything you “just need to get off your chest” does not belong in a voicemail. Write it down, then shred the paper, then burn the shredded clippings, then dump the ashes in a nuclear reactor and hope they don’t turn into a giant paper monster that wanders the country eating buildings and shouting your angry words as its battle cry like a bad B movie. Note that leaving it where your child/sibling/friend/coworker/nemesis can find it is the same as mutating it into said monster.

    2) Death threats are also unwise, regardless of whether you intend to carry them out or not, because if the person dies you will become suspect numero uno when the forensic guys recover it and Horatio from CSI: Miami will put on sunglasses and make a really bad joke about you before the Who screams. Also, Perry Mason will look at you and weep, so just don’t do it.

    2b) Also unwise is calling the money you got from your ex a loan on voicemail before attempting to claim it was a gift when your ex takes you on Judge Judy to get it back, or leaving a voicemail bragging about keying your ex’s car before attempting to claim innocence before Judge Joe Brown. Pretty much anything that can be construed as evidence of a crime before or after the fact is a no-no.

    3) If you know they do not have their cell turned on unless they’re traveling, don’t call and leave 3 voicemails in an hour asking why they aren’t calling you back. Call the land line where they actually spend most of their time instead.

    • spoken like a man who watches a lot of court TV. Judge Judy is a super hero.

      • *grins* There’s a certain time of day, particularly when you have only an antenna for TV, that it’s either judges or soap operas. And I don’t watch soap operas. These days I’m usually working when they air, and if we’re on late lunch break it’s either the radio or Netflix, so I haven’t seen them in a while. But yes, she is still a super hero. I think the most fun is her side conversations with the deputy. “Take a look at this, Bert. Does that look like a signature to you? It looks like a signature to me. He thinks I won’t notice that he signed this IOU. He wants to tell me it was a gift, Bert.”

    • Brynn says:

      “Horatio from CSI: Miami will put on sunglasses and make a really bad joke about you before the Who screams”

      hahaha. this point was well made. no more recorded death threats.

  3. Jenn says:

    Email – is not my preferred choice – anything written down can be misconstrued – it can also be forwarded and edited to whatever degree someone else wants. That being said my lovely divorcing parents only communicate by email now, since they suck at fighting fair in person – and it works for them.

    Depending on what you are fighting about – if it’s a someone else said “___”, the phone can work if you’re on speaker with the other person. That being said I think all is better when done in person. Granted there are times where it doesn’t work – so with that – I would say be consistent and calm. I deal with this all the time at work – irate patients who did not read their forms. I repeat and repeat and repeat the same answer with as calm a tone as possible using as many I-phrases. Eventually they realize that where you stand is firm. I know that is a little different then a relationship, but for somethings in a relationship there are firm places like that. I feel hurt and vulnerable when I was told of your relationship with X while you were with me… or something like that.

  4. Chris says:

    “it was all news to me. the point was get me to apologize for every infraction. i think there was somewhere around 30. i simply hit delete.”

    Does that mean there’s 31 now? 🙂

    Deleting is a bit like hanging up for a word person. But I’m not saying it wasn’t appropriate in this case. I wonder what the response would have been if you’d asked why they didn’t mention these things at the time, instead of saving them up.

    That might have been the opening to a great conversation.

    Maybe I’m too much of an optimist though.

    Regarding the point: “do not hide behind your ability to write well.”

    Interesting one. I’ll have to think on this one a bit. But I also think that the ability to write well means you should have the ability to read well. Whether that’s reading 1600’s English or “WHN R U TXTNG ME?” English. The person who happens to have the skills should make allowances for the person who doesn’t, I agree.

    John Ruskin’s “Sesame and Lilies” (at least the first section) is a fascinating, albeit heavy, article on the importance of reading well. After reading that, I started wondering if I knew how to read at all.

  5. Jamie says:

    I have this weird habit of needing to pace while talking on the phone so I equate it with exercise…without any real payoff, so thumbs down across the board.

    I dated a guy once who wrote excellent emails – funny, smart – like rich text hugs. But he tried to handle disagreements that way too. On those occasions, I felt like I lost out on my war strategies of interrupting, sighing loudly and rolling my eyes. There are no emoticons that adequately convey that.

    • i thought i was the only one who can’t sit still while on the phone. if someone manages to keep me on for more than 5 minutes, my dishes will inexplicably get done. (i’m always on my headset, holding the phone is too much work and i don’t want brain cancer)

    • I do the pacing while on the phone as well. Thank the Lord for cordless phones. Though if you pace and have a corded phone, last I knew Radio Shack…er, I mean, “The Shack”… still sells a little cord detangler you plug into the handset jack and it turns constantly to keep you from tangling your cord. Handset cords are (or at least were) made of tinsel inside (yes, like you hang on a Christmas tree), so they break if you twist them too much.

    • You’re a pacer too, huh?

  6. Charmaine Stanley says:

    I am in a long distance relationship (with limited internet so skype is only a treat), so my cell phone is a life line for communication with my Honey. Sure we experience a fair bit of miscommunication because I rely heavily on facial expression when I talk to people, which doesn’t work over the phone of course, so mainly the misunderstanding is my fault. It comes down to thinking the best of people and their intentions, not the worst.

    I don’t suppose you would want to talk about PMS? It’s like a tornado of hormones that rips through emotional stability and puts it all back in the wrong places. Inane things make you angry and the smallest – usually easy to deal with – thing happens is greeted by floods of tears. Don’t know how much there is to say about it I guess?

    • i’m up for a PMS post. maybe next week. could be fun. or maybe fun is the wrong word…

      • Jenn says:

        As for the PMS thing and a long distance relationship – I’ve learned to give my guy a clear signal – I’m pretty good at seeing the PMS train barreling down on me – I give him an FYI and then we keep it light as much as we can – when I feel up to it – if not I try my best to articulate my crazy anxiety – normally he’s smart enough to find a way to shelve any serious discussion for after the hormones level out.

        For me the more I am aware of the source of the feeling the more I can handle it, rather than letting it overwhelm me. It’s freeing to be able to know where the random crying or anxiety is coming from. It’s the PMS? Okay hand me the sour patch kids and close the office door and we will all be safe.

        • Charmaine Stanley says:

          I’m still learning to not let it overwhelm me, that and I’m taking herbal treatment to try balance things out.

        • Bekah says:

          *shelves this to remember for future reference* I know that if I dont remember to do this… I will pity the poor soul who suddenly has a weepy girlfriend on his hands.

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