Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Whatever happened to the 'It's good to talk' culture?

I had one of the most remarkable things that has happened to me for ages occur - someone rang me!

What made it perhaps more remarkable was the fact that they weren't:

i. Seeking to do something clever with PPI refunds, or

ii. Trying to sell me windows, mobile 'phones or any other product!

No, this was someone who was asking me about a communication and, rather than is now it appears the norm' email me, they actually dialled and spoke to me about it. Talk about shock, I nearly had a heart attack on hearing someone I knew call me and really want to engage on a matter of business!

Now I don't know about you but I, wearing the dogcollar, find myself engaged with so many opportunities to pour oil on troubled waters, the majority of which have been caused by people doing one of the following email communication related acts:

Sending an email in Anger
Boy oh boy does this open a rat's nest of angst crises? I'm sure many of us have done it - the flash of anger that results in a email 'putting them straight' only to find that they smouldering wick that lit your touch paper was in fact either mistaken, mischievous or malevolent.

As a policy, I try to contact the person 'voice to voice' for even when the words of an email are right the recipient can't see the raised eyebrow or smile that accompanies them and may be hearing them internally with a completely different tone and that more often than not causes even more trouble!

Another good stance is that of going and getting a brew before responding (verbally or email-wise) as I find that by the time I've come back with the nectar I've found myself diverted away onto more important things or the anger has subsided. But even then, I will go down the 'call them' route first because if you have to say sorry it's better for the other person to hear it and of course there's no written evidence you ever did it ;-)  which is another good reason for telephoning rather than calling:

Assuming that Sending and receiving are one and the same thing
If I had a pound coin for every person who assumes that having sent me an email meant I'd either received, read or comprehended it then I'd have at least a pound today!

The number of people who have complained about double-booking, no shows, confused participants and turning up at the wrong time or in the wrong place wearing the wrong stuff leads me to believe that email is the work of the devil at times. True I can do fifty interesting things before most of the people I know are out of bed thanks to it but sending something is not the same as them receiving it.

Our son sent off an application to a new school (but that's a different story for another day!) and waited ... and waited ... and waited ... and then got a telephone call from a lovely teaching type who apologised that they'd only just got the email as they'd been on holiday and their computer was also down. Now how fair is that? Teachers work extremely hard for little thanks (are you reading Mr. Gove? Of course you're not, there's no pictures!!!) and when holidays come they are most rightly entitled to take them as fully as possible. We all have times when our computers (yes, even Apple products) fail to send or receive (although I'd blame BT for most of this ;-)  ) and so, despite your belief that I have the wretched communication, you're belief is misplaced and wrong.

If something is really important then it's best to belt and braces and make that call to ensure that the other person still has a pulse and that the same song sheet, and tune, are being used.

Silence is ...
Well, it's silence, innit? And this is one of the curses of our email, electronic communications age.

When I started to remove the 3270 dumb terminals from the offices of workers in the finance world all those years back I did so in the belief that I was heralding in a new age of communications. No more would I need to rush to a fax to see something, I could send, and receive, a document without leaving my desk (so where, and why, are you going?).  I would no longer have to describe things, places, meetings and the like in detail - I can now merely grunt and assume you've red the fing wat I have emailled yew in perrfect englisch because I have a spellchecker (one of the apparent curses of predictive 'phone and wordprocessing devises is that we can no longer either spell or punctuate properly).

I have to admit that despite having been at the bleeding edge of technology for as long as it was electrical (with a bit of mechanical thrown in) I am beginning to wonder if we are not subjecting ourselves to a 'cube world' of our own making:

I remember when those around me were looked at with suspicion whenever they left their desks and how, when email became the norm, the plebian masses cheered as they were free to 'chat' electronically. Slowly the sound of voices grew less as they retreated into the heads of the conversants - and we thought this was progress then.

Now I'm sad to say I may have been an agent for change of the wrong kind in that I have help to kill conversation and accelerate the impact of repetitive strain injuries from keyboards and mice!

So here's a heartfelt plea from a cleric who is limited in brain and ability:

If you need to communicate - pick up your 'phone (send a mail with an image if you need to and one with words to confirm the call and the decisions) - talk to someone today, it could change your (or their) life ;-)

I write this having spoken to someone earlier who said I was their first call of the week - everything else had been done electronically.

Now how sad is that?



Phillip said...

Talk! you must be joking, I've had people text me from across the room!

Vic Van Den Bergh said...


I remember the cube days when conversations between some would happen on 'Chat' rather than be seen leaving to actually talk - mind you that's where the smokers have the edge I guess :-)