Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anybody There?

With so many mediums of communication around us, isn't it ironic that we are actually communicating worse than before. Or maybe, we are spoiled by choice.

Have we become more erratic in how we communicate with friends, relatives, peers and managers? At times, some exchanges even fall below the basic norms of decency. When there were only letters, each letter would be answered even though the process of writing, putting stamps and posting was cumbersome. Before the advent of cell phones, each voice-mail would generally result in a returned call.

How many times does it happen now, that one person calls another and never gets a callback? Or somebody sends an sms to another person and it goes unanswered. If you go by the basic tenets of courtesy, this would be considered quite rude. Why is it that in the current age, this is treated as normal behavior both by the abuser and the abused?

Consider these real life incidents -

Rinali and Ajay are friends. They meet regularly and are in constant touch normally. One day Rinali calls Ajay but he does not answer. She then sends him a couple of texts (SMSes) but he doesn't reply. After a few days Rinali gives up and then Ajay calls her. He is very casual. When she asks him what happened in the past two days, he says 'Nothing, I was just taking it easy'. When Rinali asks him why he was incommunicado, he has no answer..

Rinali is confused but doesn't know what really transpired. Rinali does feel hurt and Ajay surely knows it but does not address it. This is probably one of the causes why relationships are so fragile now. At this point, Ajay has already managed to distance himself to an extent in Rinali's mind.

Seema and Nazma are very good friends at work. They keep in touch regularly even when they are not at work, and socialize with each other outside work at least 2-3 times a week. Nazma is very meticulous about her communication. She replies to each sms and returns each call. Seema can be very effusive at times, bombarding Nazma with 10 texts in an hour, but at other times she takes hours to reply to a single sms. Every time this happens, it perturbs Nazma and she has even tried to ignore Seema's texts at times to make her realize how she feels but Seema just picks up the phone and fires Nazma for ignoring her. Of course, if Nazma does the same, i.e. calls Seema when she does not reply, Seema just ignores her calls. It is very difficult for Nazma to voluntarily ignore somebody's call, so unfortunately she succumbs to Seema's bullying. Is there anything Nazma can do?

Its possible that when Nazma gets friendly with another girl and the other girl is more communication friendly than Seema, she will prefer the new person to Seema.

Mostly we prefer reliable people in our lives unless we have issues of self esteem where we thirst after the people who treat us badly. Given the option to have more communication friendly people around, we choose those. Its just that we tolerate this behavior because it has become so pervasive in society, that we have started thinking that there is no other option.

How does one handle these problems of communication in ones life? Common courtesy demands that we dignify the effort that anybody puts into writing to us by at least a cursory reply. Is the person taking you for granted or are you just one of the hundreds of friends that she has that, either she doesn't care, or by the time she gets to replying to you, the moment has passed. Are you no longer that interesting to this person or does that person crave constant novelty?

If one is sensitive to this, should that person limit one's friendship to a few close friends or alternately make a lot of inconsequential friends so as to not feel left out?

If this is a common problem that affects a lot of us and most of us feel that it should be fixed, should there be more education in this area in terms of workshops or soft training courses? Shouldn't more people also be complaining to their friends vociferously?

There could be some norms that we could start with that would ease these communication heart-aches.
  • Communication should at least be acknowledged. There are times when somebody writes us a beautiful sms or email and we want to take time to write back and then we keep on procrastinating till it never happens. It would be better if one just acknowledged by a simple one liner and drafted an elaborate reply later e.g. Thank your for that thought, more later ....
  • Sometimes we get into frivolous chains of texts, so its ok to break off at any point.
  • Communication should be more or less consistent, so even if one person is on a holiday or assignment, and normally they there are ten communication touch points, it should not shrink to zero. There should at least be to a couple of messages exchanged in a day.
  • Not responding to somebody almost always causes a bit of rejection for that person. There are times, when people are pests and the communication is unwelcome, and it is ok to do it to them, but not the people one considers to be close.
  • On the flip side, one must not expect 24 x 7 availability from anyone. It should not be required that each call and sms be returned within the hour. In this we can follow the age of the telephone where generally calls were returned in a 24 hour period. That should be acceptable.
  • One can make sure that one limits calls to people who don't respond and also keep conversations interesting so that the other person seeks more.

The general idea is to dignify the person who takes the trouble to keep in touch with you.

Remember that at times, the people who hang around you, no matter how you treat them will just be that - 'hangers on', not friends.

CTizm: If you don't want your rights to be taken away by a company, make sure that you don't allow them to become a monopoly. Take the example of Microsoft, Google or Facebook. As they get more market share, the more they try to control your lives. Make sure that you always use alternative services even though it makes your life a bit more difficult, so that you do not allow these companies to control your lives. e.g. There was a time when Microsoft was the 800 pound gorilla that everybody feared would take over our lives but it has been quickly replaced by Google which has invaded the privacy of people more insidiously than Microsoft ever did. You can't blame these companies because, in a capitalist economy each company is expected to return maximum value to its shareholders by aiming to become a monopoly.

1 comment:

Ajita said...

this particular blog seems more like a monologue to me. Introspecting, wondering what is right, what could be done - as if experiencing it and questioning what lies underneath.... Ajita