by Neena Strichart
I’m sure that most of you reading this column today have had at least one experience of being in discourse with an individual you have deemed to be an “airhead” – a person whose head is filled with nothing but oxygen rather than the grey matter so treasured in our society. Also, it is not uncommon for us to try to engage in communication with those who make it nearly impossible to do so.
In an attempt to combine the two above notions, I have discovered a quote from 18th-century theologian Joseph Priestly, who by the way discovered oxygen. The quote is as follows: “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” I couldn’t agree more, and, frankly, I wish I had said it first myself!
Back in the olden days, one had a very limited number of options when it came to methods of communicating with others. Making a personal visit to an individual’s home or place of business was also a way to engage in conversation– that is IF the person in question was at home or at work. Another option back then was trying to reach a person by letter (pony express), and if an emergency was taking place, a telegram could be sent. Thanks to Thomas Edison, there then came the telephone and WHOOSH! Instant means of communication had been born!
Now the methods of communication are as myriad as the strands of a spider’s web. Oh, we can still drop by in person, call or send a telegram, but those choices are archaic by today’s standards. Nowadays, even faxing is passé in most instances. Facebook, texting, cell phones, tweeting, emailing and other such options are fabulous when needing more than one option of communication. But what I find frustrating is figuring out which one I use for which person? Do I have the person’s work or personal cell number? Do they text? Does that person have a land line or a cell phone – or both? Does he or she even own a fax machine? What time is best to stop by? Does that person prefer a call or an email? Holy mackerel, it is darn near impossible to keep track of who prefers what means of communication! Was Joseph Priestly right? I believe he was a very forward thinker. I wonder what he would think of us now!
It does seem that, the more technical and plenty the communication methods are, the less we really communicate. I find that leaving messages on voicemail for certain folks just go unheard, or, at best, the person receiving the voicemail just listens to the first few words and then erases the message all the while assuming what the message was regarding. Faxes that are placed within the confines of an already overflowing “in-box” might as well have never been sent. Although quite popular, texting too can be tricky business. Using slang, acronyms or shortcuts when sending text messages can be surefire fodder for misunderstandings, especially if you hit send before taking a quick peek. And phoning or texting while driving are downright dangerous and can be costly if you get pulled over and handed a citation.
Emails are another story. We send them, assume they are read and then wait for a reply. Was the message read? Did it end up in spam? Am I being ignored? The possibilities are endless. Is the tone misinterpreted? Are all those happy faces necessary? What happens if your email is forwarded to your foe? It’s impossible to “unsend” or guarantee a private email!
For those wanting to get my attention, email, office calls and Facebook are best. Dropping by the office without an appointment is a crap shoot as I may be out, on the phone or with a client. If I’m on deadline, FORGET IT! I am incommunicado!
For now, I am navigating and mapping my methods of communication and which one to use on whom (or is it who?). Let me know if you have any ideas. If it’s a Thursday, send me a note by carrier pigeon.