The Two Most Obnoxious Communication Habits

I once wrote an email to a work colleague that included a complaint about certain people not doing a very important part of their jobs. I didn’t write this to gossip. I wrote this in the hope that she’d be able to put a stop to it. We work different shifts, and I rarely see her, so I thought email would be the best way to communicate in this instance. Silly me.

Instead, she shared my email, without my permission, with another coworker. And he decided to share it with everyone, including the people I had named, so that he could look good by defending these people. My relationship with pretty much everyone has been damaged by this.

There is nothing as obnoxious and outrageous as sharing someone’s email without their permission. Yes, it’s easy to do, so people who would never think to share personal letters don’t hesitate to forward emails. We seem to have forgotten basic etiquette.

Another thing that drives me absolutely nuts is when I call someone, and they put me on speaker phone so that others can hear, without telling me. Someone in my chain of command does this all the time. That person has broken my trust. It makes me not want to talk to him unless absolutely necessary.

I talk to different people in different ways. I share information with some people that I wouldn’t share with others. I should have the right to choose who hears what in my life. Taking that right away from me is unacceptable. And yet it happens all the time.

If you have either one of these bad habits, I urge you to rethink your communication style. Not violating people’s privacy is common courtesy. Thank you.

Eavesdropping

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Bait

If a trout sees a fly flitting about on the surface of his river, he’s going to snap at it. It’s in his nature. And when it’s just nature at play, that’s a great idea. Everybody needs food.

Unfortunately, sometimes man is inserting himself into this little game, and then taking that bait means certain death for the trout. I’ve always had mixed emotions about that sort of thing. When you take advantage of the fact that another creature is going to do what comes naturally, it kind of seems like cheating to me.

Bait. It’s a sinister thing. And the worst part is that we use it on one another, too.

If you’ve ever snapped off an angry response to a hostile e-mail, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You took the bait. And that almost always makes things worse for you.

Humans have always struggled with delayed gratification. The bait is there now, and it’s soooo satisfying to snap at it. For a split second. Then the regret and/or embarrassment sets in.

Trolls, in particular, count on this. They get some weird satisfaction from getting a rise out of people, while hiding alone in their lonely little rooms, clad in their stained and stretched out tighty whities. And they are oh, so good at it.

When someone gives you bait, it’s hard not to take it. But as a loved one says, “Don’t let their stupid rub off on you.” Wise words, indeed.

I’m trying to remind myself that no one controls my timeline. I don’t have to respond instantly to an e-mail. The fact that I’ve never been very good with snappy comebacks is probably a good thing, after all.

Take a breath. Let things percolate. Give yourself the time to use your very valuable brain. Because hooks in the mouth hurt.

Trout fly

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No, Your Computer Isn’t Slow

It’s really frustrating when you are sitting at your computer, staring at that stupid hourglass, waiting for… whatever. Everybody hates when a computer is slow to download. It’s really inconvenient.

But when I hear someone complain about this, I have to laugh inside. I can’t help but think, as I’m trying to send that e-mail, that 100 short years ago, if I had wanted to get that message delivered, a whole different process would have to occur.

You’d write the message. You’d give it to a delivery person, or deliver it yourself. You’d go outside. You’d saddle your horse. You’d hop on. You’d ride across town. You’d deliver the message. You’d probably be obligated to socialize. You’d then return home, where you’d groom and feed the horse and clean his stall. It’s amazing that anyone got anything done.

Suddenly a slow e-mail doesn’t seem so bad. Even at its worst, it sure beats saddle sores. Try not to forget that.

I feel the same way about microwaves. How can we possibly get impatient with a microwave when a century ago you’d have been sweating in a hot kitchen, after having spent months raising your crops and/or your livestock, then going through the monumental hassle of preparing, cooking and serving the meal? And lest we forget, no refrigeration. We should kiss our microwaves.

We are able to do everything so much faster these days that somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten about patience and appreciation. I’m not sure that sacrificing those qualities for the sake of convenience was a fair trade.

hourglass

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Shooting Your Mouth Off

In this fast-paced era, it’s so easy to say things without thinking. We’re in too much of a hurry. We can fire off an insult to the other side of the world in mere seconds. This is not progress.

Yes, I have been known to say what I think, to my detriment, but at least back in the 70’s there was usually a waiting period. No e-mails. I had to write it down, find an envelope, address it, stamp it, then find a mailbox. By then I usually calmed down and didn’t mail my rant.

There is a reason wars were less deadly prior to gunpowder. If you actually have to approach someone and look them in the eye with your sticks and stones, if you have to tramp for hundreds of miles before engaging, you have some time to think. But when you can easily reach your destination and shoot from a remove, there’s more room to act rashly. Semi-automatic is always more impulsive than flintlock, and flintlock trumps boiling oil every time.

Time calms you down. Effort wears you down. These things have been taken from us. We no longer get the time to ponder while heating up the oil.

Have you ever heard of someone getting into a fist fight right after chopping a cord of wood? Me neither.

We need to remember to slow down. If we lose that ability, we’re in big trouble.

slow down

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E-ntroductions

I’ve got to say, I know a lot of amazing people. Many of them I have met through this blog, and I’m very grateful for that. I have some inspiring, talented, enthusiastic, wise and wonderful friends. It is often a source of amazement to me that all of these brilliant people don’t already know each other. I guess I’ve always sort of assumed that greatness would be drawn toward itself like a vast magnetic field.

If the various streams that feed my own personal font of human knowledge ever converge, it would turn into a sea of awesomeness! What magic would spring forth upon the world? What new things would be created? The untapped potential here boggles the mind. Yeah, yeah, I know this is called networking, and it didn’t originate with me. So sue me.

So recently I started a very unscientific experiment. I picked two of my amazing friends and sent them an e-mail which basically said, “Hi guys. You are two of my favorite people, and here’s why.” Then I went on to describe each one’s talents, and urged them to connect via e-mail or Facebook or Linkedin… whatever it takes, because with their combined energy and enthusiasm, only the most incredible things could result.

I have absolutely no idea if anything will come of this rather awkward and unsolicited introduction. I plan to try it with several pairs in the coming weeks. If even one connection actually bears fruit, it will have been worth it.

You should give it a try! Imagine how the world would change if we each connected just two amazing people with each other. It’s fun being a catalyst!

network

Take a Minute

My computer just took forever to boot up. I was sitting here tapping my foot and grumbling to myself until finally it started working and I had access to the whole wide world yet again. I feel much better now.

Every once in a while I have to laugh at myself. Where does this impatience come from? I remember what life was like before the internet. I remember going to libraries to look things up in encyclopedias. I remember rummaging through card catalogs and then burrowing into the stacks to find books that were often misshelved or already checked out. I remember using microfiche machines, watching entire newspapers scroll past my eyes as I tried to find one particular article. Even if my computer took 15 minutes to boot up every time, it would still be a godsend compared to all that.

I see the same impatience when I open my drawbridge. On average it’s a four or five minute delay, and taking a detour will often eat up a lot more of a driver’s time, and yet there is still always a certain percentage of people who insist on doing a U-turn and rerouting. Your blood pressure would be a lot lower, people, if you took those few minutes to step out of your car and enjoy the view. And, too, how can you be so outraged when you know your route takes you across a drawbridge? You have to realize that they occasionally open. Don’t take it so personally.

And I sometimes find myself impatiently standing in front of the microwave. I mean, seriously? It’s a microwave. It was invented to speed up the cooking process, and it does. And yet I’ll stand there and say, “Come on… come on…” If I took the time to anthropomorphize my microwave, I’m sure I’d endow it with a lot of righteous indignation. “What do you mean, ‘come on’? I’d like to see you heat up a lasagna this fast, woman. Sheesh.”

And you’re worried about not getting an instant reply to your e-mail? There was a time when people were impressed at the speed of the pony express. It only took 10 days to get a letter from coast to coast! Imagine that!

Don’t even get me started about standing in line. How can I get irritated at the grocery store when 200 years ago I wouldn’t have even had access to oranges, let alone have a convenient way to purchase them if they were available? And lest we forget, cashiers used to have to ring up each purchase individually and often didn’t get everything right.

What a spoiled brat we have become as a society.

Thanks to Deborah Drake for giving me the idea for this entry!

IMG_1290
Traffic backs up as I open my drawbridge. I try not to let this power go to my head.

Human Contact

The other night I had sort of a girls’ night out with a new friend. We had dinner, and then went to a storytelling/music event. I had a wonderful time. It was nice to talk to someone face to face who wasn’t a coworker. It’s been a long time. I’ve been entirely too isolated.

It was a beautiful evening, and we ate at a sidewalk café, and then went to a broiling hot venue to hear really good stories and really horrible music. The heat was so oppressive that I nearly passed out, but you know what? It was worth it.

There’s a lot to be said for human contact. It’s nice to have a touch stone, someone with whom to share your opinions, get feedback, and hear new perspectives. It’s also great to get out of your head for a while, and hear someone else’s stories and experiences. You can learn a lot that way.

It’s very easy, in this cyber world, to go for long stretches of time talking to people only via e-mail or Facebook or whatever. It’s contact, yes, but it’s an illusion. It can’t replace looking someone in the eye, or hearing someone’s voice, or sharing a plate of fried broccoli as you watch people walk by.

It’s easy to take the internet shortcut. We are all so busy and the world is so fast-paced. It takes a lot less effort to reach out in a virtual way. I’m not saying that you should stop your on-line activities, but if you take the time to have real contact, you reap many rewards. So maybe it’s time to turn off your computer and pick up the phone and invite someone for coffee. Just a thought.

by Carole Spandau at fineartamerica.com
by Carole Spandau at fineartamerica.com

Hibernation

I admit it. I’m an introvert. People don’t energize me, they drain me. I’m not someone who looks forward to parties and large gatherings.

It’s not that I don’t like people. Quite the contrary. I have several dear friends. I just prefer to interact with them one on one, and I agree with Ben Franklin that fish and visitors stink after three days. I’m quite happy to see them go after a certain length of time, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less.

It is much easier to be social and an introvert in the modern era. I can keep in touch via e-mail and facebook and text messages, and I can write this blog. Then, when I want to have some “me time”, all I have to do is log off. It’s the electronic equivalent of “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

I am glad I have my dogs. It’s nice to have a heartbeat in the house, someone who is happy to see me when I come home. But I’m fairly certain that if they suddenly were endowed with the ability to speak, or if they stopped feeling the need to sleep 18 hours a day, I’d probably be setting them up in their own bachelor pad on the opposite side of town. Oh, I’d call and chat daily, but I wouldn’t want to spoon with them as much as I do now.

Katherine Hepburn had a good point when she said a happy marriage would be one where the spouses were to “live nearby and visit often.” Unfortunately it would be hard to find someone who would be willing to agree to that, which is probably one of the many reasons I’ve never been married.

I actually enjoy my own company. I can entertain myself for hours on end. Some of my fondest memories of vacations have been the ones where I’ve rented a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and stayed there for a week, just me and my dogs, a good pair of hiking boots and a stack of books. Bliss.

Perhaps I was a bear in another life. The thought of crawling into a den and hibernating for months on end appeals to me greatly. But in this life I’ll just have to settle for hot baths and curling up in bed with a good book.

bear

[Image credit: playrific.com]

Smoke Signals

The thing I hate most about my living situation is that I can’t get a freakin’ cell phone signal inside my house. If I need to make a long distance call (my land line doesn’t have long distance), I have to walk out to the street. This is not fun during a downpour or an emergency.

If I fall and can’t get up and can’t get to my laptop to fire off an e-mail or an instant message, I’m screwed. That’s ironic. We are at an age when technology should be making us ever more powerful, but in some situations it makes us increasingly helpless. For as long as homo sapiens have roamed the earth, we’ve been coming up with ways to communicate, hundreds of ways, in fact, but for the most part, these methods have been lost to us. Think about it. Can you personally communicate by any of these methods with any manner of ease?

  • Semaphore
  • Ham Radio
  • CB Radio
  • Sign language
  • Esperanto
  • Smoke Signals
  • Cryptography
  • Skywriting
  • Oral history
  • Troubadour
  • Telegram
  • Morse Code
  • Signal mirrors
  • Drum Signals
  • Hieroglyphs
  • Yodeling
  • Petroglyphs
  • Pictographs
  • Earth Figures
  • Carrier Pigeon
  • Marathon runners
  • Graffiti
  • Signal Fires
  • Pony Express
  • Coded Spirituals
  • Messages in a Bottle
  • Satellite Phone
  • Maori Hakka
  • Interpretive Dance

It’s kind of embarrassing. With all these options at our disposal, why am I sitting here in my house, cursing my luck for not being able to get a cell phone signal? My ancestors would laugh at me.

images

Chain Mail: It’s Not Just Body Armor Anymore

Several years ago, my best friend at the time sent me an e-mail. Your basic chain mail. You know the type. “Pass this on within 10 minutes to 10 friends and you’ll receive untold riches.” Except this one had a sickening twist. “If you do NOT pass this on, great harm could befall you. A lady in Florida did not pass this on, and the next day she was in a fatal car accident. A man in Texas did not pass this on and his house burned to the ground…”

So I replied to my friend, “First of all, I didn’t pass this on to anyone, because I don’t believe in this crap. But I was curious to know this: If you truly, honestly believe that this is true, why on EARTH would you send this to me, who is supposed to be your best friend? Why would you put me at risk like that? What does this say about you?” She didn’t respond. What could she have said? (Of course later on I found out she was a sociopath, so suddenly it all made sense.)

The fact is, chain mail is insidious. It wastes people’s time, it makes people nervous, and/or it gives false hope. It gives people who are living lives of quiet desperation just one more way to be disappointed. It also feels, to the receiver, like you’re sweeping your garbage into their in box.

Here’s a chain mail I WOULD pass on: “Pass this on to 10 people in the next 10 minutes and the person who passed it on to you will never be able to send you any stupid impersonal chain mail ever again.”

If you really do want to communicate with me, send me a personal e-mail. Tell me how you’re doing, what you’re up to, what you’re thinking. Reach out in your own words. I’ll be happy to respond.