As I prepared to write this blog post, I began to think about all the things I don’t like about how people are communicating in today’s world. At first, I thought of it as ‘new’ school vs ‘old’ school mentality. I saw it as the new kids on the block vs the old timers who were being pushed aside if they didn’t step up and do things the new way. I saw this at work where the Millennials like to communicate via texting and emailing. I saw this at home where my kids stopped speaking and started sending me text messages from another room in the same house. I saw this in the community organization I volunteer at where the “youngsters” would ask for a meeting or signatures on paperwork through an email or text message. It seemed black and white to me, that I was getting old and needed to change my ways or the young‘uns were going to push right by me.
Our technology was helping in this process with new apps and devices popping up almost by the minute where we didn’t have to talk to each other anymore. Snapchat, Facebook, and other similar apps just stoked the fire in my mind because a person could tell anyone and everyone what they were thinking in a matter of a few keystrokes. And the person telling the story didn’t even have to care if the person reading it cared or not, although the number of likes is always an added plus. Families and friends and ‘Facebook’ friends could catch up with each other 24/7 and do not have to be concerned if others were available because the info would sit and wait for them to see it at their convenience.
But then I started thinking about the social effects on this practice. People are losing the social skills to communicate. They are losing the interpersonal skills and the emotional effects of their comments. It easier to say unflattering and disparaging comments about people when you are not standing right in front of them. Although many people use “emojis” to alert someone of their tone, it is hard to sense someone’s emotional nature on both the sender’s or the receiver’s side. Additionally, I found that you can’t always know if the message was received when sending digital messages unless the person receiving it responds with a message like “understood”, “okay”, or “I got it”.
Finally, I started looking at my contemporaries in terms of age and realized that many of them have already made the digital leap in their communicating. My phone in the house rings much less frequently. It is almost to the point where I question why I even have a home phone anymore. I know the cable and phone companies are dreading the cancellation phone calls as people are realizing they no longer need a landline. When I look at my cellular bill, I see my wife has moved to the dark side as the number of texts she sends has skyrocketed to the same level as my kids. Regardless, I think using the voice part of the phone is not dead yet.
So in order to better communicate in this new digital world, I try to adhere to a certain set of rules which I will try to elaborate.
- If a conversation goes on for more than 3 cycles of emails or texts, pick up the phone and talk to the person. If the conversation requires that much give and take, it is will take less time and ensure better communication if you speak with the person rather than type.
- Put the person you are asking to do something in the TO: section and CC: anyone else. This reduces the confusion of who is supposed to take an action and ensures the others understand that they are there for informational purposes only.
- Try not to joke during an email or text. It is hard for people to hear the tone of your voice by looking at the letters you type.
- Reply with some kind of response so that you ensure the message was received. My definition of communication has always been that the sender must unequivocally know that the receiver has “heard” and understood the message. Otherwise, the communication was not complete. If you don’t know if the message was received, it is up to the sender to find another method to communicate to ensure the message was received. You cannot rest on the fact that I sent a message so it must have been received.
- If something is vitally important, you need to pick up the phone and speak with the person. You cannot rely on a 140 character text message to ensure an important task is performed at the necessary time.
- If you are asking someone to do you a favor or a special request, always speak to them directly. It is always harder for someone to say no when they are in person or on the phone. If you send a digital message to them asking for the favor, it is much easier for the person to type back no.