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Post-A-Day 2011: Do you prefer to talk or text?

04/01/2011

I’ll admit, I usually don’t like to write on topics suggested by the powers that be — not because they’re necessarily bad topics, but because I feel like I’m taking the easy way out and not paying attention to the world around me. Today’s suggested topic, however, is worth exploring. The topic: Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

Grammatical errors aside, this is a particularly relevant topic given the many methods of communication available to us. I’ve put a lot of thought into how I prefer to interact with others since Saturday, when a good friend and I discussed this very topic.

Confession: I love to talk, but I don’t always love to talk on the phone. In fact, the only two people with whom I regularly have phone conversations are my mom, who for the next 87 days is also my roommate, and Brian. Those conversations, though, are usually when I’m driving home from work in the middle of rush hour and it’s safer to talk to them with my phone safely docked and out of my hands than to try and text on my state of the art touch-screen Droid.

Of the phone calls in my world, 99.99% serve one purpose: to coordinate a face-to-face encounter. If I like you enough to talk to you, I want to talk to you in person. Of course, if you’re in a different time zone (or at least two counties away) then the occasional phone call is reasonable. That being said, if I can accomplish the purpose of the phone call through a text message instead, you’d better believe I will. Scheduling anything is so much easier when you have the date and time in text form to look at as you consult your calendar/the stars/your personal assistant (I am hiring one, but I can’t pay you…) to see if you’re available.

Text-based communication is also my preferred method for explaining anything. If you have to leave detailed instructions or anything requiring more than a 30-second phone call or voice mail, write it out. That also saves your intended recipient the hassle of having to listen carefully and transcribe your voicemail, which may have been crystal clear on your end but on theirs sounds more like you left it during a swim in the washing machine.

Of course, there is an obvious downside to text-based communication. For gauging emotion and deriving intent, even the most clearly worded email falls short of a phone call or vis a vis conversation. Emailing your travel itinerary to your boss is advisable; emailing your boyfriend to explain the questionable decisions you made last weekend is less so. I can think of several conversations with Brian that turned into arguments for no reason other than one of us misinterpreted what the other was texting.

But then, communication is such a fluid thing that it’s impossible to make “always have serious conversations in person” a hard and fast rule. After all, when tempers flare it can be all too easy to throw out epithets and attack the other person, rather than express why you’re so angry or explore solutions to the problem. That’s when long-form text communication (that is, an email or a letter, not a text message) can be a useful way to organize your thoughts and get to the core of a situation without worrying about saying the wrong thing — or getting a word in edgewise. As I’ve said to others in the past, writing a letter is the number one way to make sure you won’t be interrupted.

(Receiving a letter or email in a conflict is convenient, too, because you can read it or ignore it at your leisure and craft a decent response without the pressure of immediacy.)

The moral of today’s story: in my world, there is no concrete hierarchy of communication. It’s about who you are, what you mean to me, and ultimately what’s the fastest way to get my true point across to you.

What do you think? Talk, text, or some other form of communication?

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