Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Talk To Me

A lot of people, especially in our e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, text, blog-driven world say, "The meaning gets lost when you write, though, there's no nuance, no body language so you can't really get your point across." (I'm paraphrasing but I know you've heard it.) These people far prefer their "important" conversations to occur vocally, preferably in person.

Wow, do I ever not agree. If you're going to have an important discussion with me, especially an emotionally charged one, I really think you're going to like me better (and I know I'll like you better) if we have it in writing. I can talk, I can quip, I can lecture, I can hold my own in an argument but to grasp the short and long term of a defining conversation while it's happening? I'm not good at it. Better than I was, working on it all the time but not good. I get hurt, I get confused and I don't have immediate recall of all research ever done on a topic so eventually I'm just going to fade away. I'll be able to grasp my point fully in a couple of hours and I'll e-mail you. I like to be able to go back to an e-mail or comment thread to see what was said before, to check my work, if you will. I often remember things incorrectly because I went off a feeling so it's easier for me to allow for the possibility that I am operating on feeling not fact if I can see it in writing. I often need time to count to 10 or re-read what's been said or simply think about what I really think before I can respond. If you've got me tethered to a phone or cornered in the living room I don't have the space to do that.

Now, as far as which way you prefer having your conversations, it's just that, a preference. I know you can be misunderstood in any medium. There are always exceptions that prove rules, mistakes made and planes flying overhead that interfere with reception. No way of communicating is perfect. But I've been thinking about the people who feel that one simply can't be fully understood, in a conversational way, in writing.

I think they just don't write very well.

To be fair that can mean a lot of things, maybe they think better on their feet so they concentrate on talking instead of writing, maybe they don't hear the words as they write them, maybe they don't revise every little e-mail or comment or text (I do, OK, I just do, because I want to get my point across), maybe it's harder for them to grasp how they "sound" on the page, maybe it's something else about writing that I don't even know because writing is so natural to me, even when I'm doing it poorly. So "well" could have a number of different meanings but...

What do you think?

Also, don't you think we'd all write better if we did it at a cool desk like the lady above? (Photo courtesy of The Commons at Flickr.)

1 comment:

  1. I feel two ways about it. On one hand, I like the connection of talking. I also rely a lot on inflection and body language and I am quite good at reading people when I speak with them in person, a bit less so on the phone. Sometimes I read too much or too little emotion into a written message. When IMing, I like it when my correspondents use emoticons because they help me interpret the connotation as well as the denotation.

    On the other hand, I completely agree that having a difficult conversation via text (well, actually, I detest text conversations - texting is for briefly relaying information only), email, or instant messaging allows me the time I need to respond less with the hot side of my head and more with the cool. I had a horrible, horrible conversation with Himself some months ago on IM that would have ended in disaster if we were on the phone. Instead, it was awful but both of us were able to take a moment, read and reread what we had said, consider how we wanted to respond, and end the conversation still actually speaking to each other.