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Thursday
Mar222012

Better Communication through Technology

Lately, I’m not sure why, I’ve been getting into more and more conflicts with people I know. I’m aware of this, and I’ve decided to work on my communication skills. Fortunately, we live in a time when the latest technology can help us to be better communicators. I’ve resolved to use these tools more effectively in my life, to create more harmony in the world around me.

For starters, the next time I’m really mad at someone, I plan to write a long email, carefully explaining what he or she has done to offend me. I won’t just fire it off in anger. I’ll compose many drafts, each one more eloquent than the last. If I express my hurt feelings honestly and fully in writing, the person will surely listen to reason. Then they can respond directly, with a heartfelt apology, to each of my concerns. This can all be accomplished peacefully, through email, without all the yelling and blaming that come with a face-to-face confrontation.

But what if I don’t get the response I expect? (It could happen, if the person decides to be difficult.) If my friend or loved one disagrees with me, then I’ll write back an even longer, more cogent email, perhaps with a stronger tone. Maybe we’ll get into a back-and-forth email volley, which will be productive, because obviously we have stuff to air out. My replies will keep getting longer, more logical, and passionate, until finally I wear the person down, and he or she says, “You were right, Tim.”

But if there’s no response to my first email, then I’ll have to wait, maybe for days or weeks, constantly checking my email, wondering if the person has read it and is just being passive-aggressive, or if they* never even got it. (It could’ve ended up in their spam folder, to give the benefit of the doubt). Here’s where communication gets tricky. Now you really need to get out of the realm of email, which clearly isn’t working, and start text messaging.

It’s important to text mindfully. For instance, I would delete the profanity-laced text I had already drafted to the person, which I had saved, and looked at in my free time. They may deserve that, but more finesse is called for. What I would do is text something more cryptic, perhaps just one word, like: “careful.” This will remind the person that I’m out there, and make them wonder what I’m talking about. It might occur to them that they need to be careful about something. Or they might even think I am threatening violence, and they should be on the lookout. Not a bad thing at this point. My text will get the person thinking and help them put the pieces together in their own mind -- an important step toward resolution.

(By the way, at no point will I pick up the phone and call the person. Such an old-fashioned move could be seen as too confrontational, even hostile, and would only fuel the fire.)

If, for some reason, my text doesn’t do the trick, I can always stalk my (now) enemy on Facebook. Not that I would write nasty comments on their “timeline” -- that would be too obvious. Instead I’ll play it sweet, “liking” and writing jokey comments on all their posts, even stupid videos from parties and shows they've attended without me. If they post a public event invitation, I will click “attending.” The person might be confused, or even think everything is totally fine between us for a time, but eventually they'll catch on. In the back of their mind, an awareness will grow of what great friends we were in the past, and how that has deteriorated, to the point where they will feel a powerful guilt and reach out to make amends.

But what if they never do? (People are weird and unpredictable.) Then I’ll have no choice but to show up at the party publicized on Facebook. I’ll walk right up to them and say something like, “Thanks for the invitation” (even though I wasn’t specifically invited). Then I’ll go sit at the bar and try not to look at my friend. Maybe some people we know in common will come up and talk to me. I’ll glance over to see how my friend is reacting, and maybe he or she will be surrounded by a group, with everyone talking in hushed tones. I will have caused a scene.

My friend will come up to me, playing it cool, saying something like, “Hey, Tim, how’s it going? It’s good to see you.” Here, I’ll have to be direct. I’ll say, “Did you get my email?” Then my friend will break down in tears and apologize for all the suffering they've caused me. If, for some reason, this doesn’t occur, like if my friend keeps up the charade and says, “What email?” then I will just storm out. I’ll go home, check my email and text messages for an apology, and if there is none? I will search for and forward my initial email explaining my grievances, adding at the top, “FYI.”

Like I said, I’m willing to go the extra mile, using the latest technology, to communicate effectively. If none of the things I've mentioned work, there’s always Twitter.

_____

*I realize I’ve slipped into using “they” rather than “he or she.” So be it. Saying “he or she” all the time seems overly fastidious, and I don’t want to pick one and give the impression this is about a particular person. Nor do I want anyone guessing if it's about “them.” All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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