I just don’t understand how it happened. While becoming much *more* communicative with people (email, text, chat), I have become increasingly fearful of/unable to pick up the phone to have a conversation with someone. I don’t know how social media has done this, but it’s done a fantastic job of whittling way my interest in and confidence about calling people.
Maybe it’s just a matter of necessity. We had to call people on the phone for years. That was it as far as real-time conversations when you weren’t in the same room as someone. You could write a letter, send a fax or perhaps even a telegram (when did that stop? has it stopped?), but if you wanted live back and forth, the phone was your only means.
Now, we can text and chat — sending and receiving communication — maintaining a free-flow of conversation without a phone. And for some reason, that textual exchange has made calling people seem like too much effort. Or even brings up a modicum (or a lot, depending) of anxiety. I think it’s because even if you’re having a rapid-fire text convo or a lively gchat, the rules of a real-time vocal conversation are suspended.
1. You don’t have to wait for the other person to stop speaking.
Sometimes, this can be a good thing and speeds up communication — you can get questions/thoughts out while the other person is doing the same thing and then you can both answer back and it saves the time of the “you talk, I talk” means that occurs in person/on the phone. However, it also hinders communication — the essence of communication IS listening. So, if I’m too busy with my own agenda and making sure I get my needs met, I’ve taken away the ability to truly be present and understand what the other person is saying. At worst, I’ve had two entirely different conversations going at once.
2. You don’t have to hear any emotion in their voice.
You don’t have to hear anger, disappointment, fear, sadness, confusion. You can glean some of these things from their text (especially if you’re like me and accentuate words the way you speak. SERIOUSLY?), but it’s not the same as listening to someone choke up over something or be irritated with you. Or listen to an extended silence if they’re tired, sad, angry or disinterested. In text, an extended silence can just be “I went to the bathroom” OR “I can’t fucking believe you said that.” And as we’ve seen so many times, tone can be very hard to ascertain over text/email/chat.
3. You can much more easily be doing two (or three or four) things at once.
Again, one of the basic tenets of good communication is being present for the other person. It’s hard to receive something if your tuner is all fuzzy. Obviously, there are some benefits to the multi-tasking convo. You can catch up on things or watch TV or do work while continuing a conversation with someone and not appearing rude. However, it means that you’re not being completely focused on the conversation at hand, which can lead to misunderstandings and not necessarily being able to address them right away.
4. You can walk away from the conversation for a minute (or half-hour) or two and come back and continue it and there’s not much the other person can do.
Sometimes, this can be a blessing. We can have a chance to mull over our responses and not react impulsively. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re trying to get something done, get someone’s input or really have a serious conversation, it’s hard to really communicate if someone can just exit the conversation for any reason at any time.
5. It’s much, much easier to lie.
It’s not like I’m in the practice of lying regularly, but let’s be honest — sometimes, there are things you’d rather not reveal or ways to communicate over text that are not entirely truthful. It’s so much easier to ignore a text than to blatantly ignore someone’s direct question on the phone. It’s easier to catch people in a lie just by a slight hesitation, the tone of their voice or simply just vibing them and picking up on something intangible. It’s also harder to come up with excuses or stories when you’re actually talking to a real live human being.
So, as per usual, I think I’ve talked my way through why the phone has become so much harder to use — for me, at least. But, there are some simple things that need to change in my life, and I think this one can be pretty revolutionary without *too* much effort. Right?