With all of the communication tools and systems available to us these days it sure puts a lot of pressure on one, doesn't it? What is the time allowance for a return text? How about emails? Or phone messages? We are in an instant world and people expect instant answers.
Does anyone actually answer a personal phone call anymore without knowing the caller first? Don't recognize the number?...let it go to voice mail...I'll call 'em back. If I want to or feel like it, that is. I blame the telemarketers for that one.
But no wonder there is so much pressure to respond immediately. "Where were you? I've been trying to get a hold of you for like....minutes already! Sheesh!" We're connected 24-7-365 and there's a great deal of expectation and pressure that goes along with that.
I was out on the golf course a few years ago while our youngest daughter was fighting a virus at home on the couch. Why I had my stupid phone turned on at the golf course in the first place I'll never know, but I did, so it was my own darn fault. She's texting and texting about medications and soup cooking and various remedies and the phone's pinging every ten minutes but now I'm hooked into the conversation so I can't turn it off or ignore it and my playing partners are getting more and more perturbed and I can't blame them and one of them says, "why don't you just phone her? We've advanced past a device that tapped out messages back and forth to people years and years ago...it was called a telegraph!!" Smarty pants. But he was right.
I would have phoned her, too, if I hadn't thought that the last text was going to be the last text, if you know what I mean. When does the thread end? If you don't get a final response you don't think the conversation is over. Or you think the conversation is over and there's another text asking if the texting is done for now. Now I have to respond so they don't think I'm rude and around and around we go. Sound familiar?
Language is the next barrier. I'm old school. I always thought OK meant okay. You know, that's good, we have completed our communications I will proceed with my life now...Oh...Kay. But it goes to tone doesn't it? You can't read tone or meaning with only typed words.
My son says he hates okay. He'll text he's going to be late getting home and he only gets an "okay" back and he's going, "What does THAT mean? Okay? Okay?"
Is it a sarcastic okay? Was it an, "okay, fine, whatever", okay? Was he just reading into it? Is there a little guilt with the text, perhaps? Again...maybe this would be a good time for a phone call. Just saying.
Then there was the aforementioned "whatever" word. According to one college poll "whatever" was voted as the phrase that is the "most annoying in a conversation."
Oh yeah? Who said? Did I get a vote? Did you get a vote? Pfft...whatever.
Such a versatile, ambiguous and, yes, annoying word. Sometimes you need to hear the tone to correctly interpret the meaning of the word...sometimes you don't.
Husband: "I know it's your birthday, so here's a card and I'm going fishing with Jimmy. See ya later. Okay?"
No ambiguity there. "Whatever" will mean you will be coming home from fishing to an empty house with divorce papers on the counter.
Whatever your means of communication you better hone up on the etiquette. Establish some parameters with your cohorts so you're all on the same page with the same expectations. You know, whatever works.
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."-George Bernard Shaw. (1856-1950).
Writer’s note: comments and questions regarding this column may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, previous “In My Humble Opinion” and “Random Thoughts” columns can be found on the following website: http://pnhubbard.blogspot.com/.