The familiar phrases “the more, the merrier” and “the more, the better” do not always apply. The more ways we have to contact each other, the worse the results. Daily, emails go unanswered, phone calls unreturned, and texts unacknowledged. The fault does not always lie with the recipient, however. Technical difficulties with equipment, sorting issues, overwhelming numbers of contacts—these reasons and more yield failed connections. How best to solve the misunderstandings and missed messages? Three things must happen: we need to establish and share our own best protocols, we need to relearn the courtesy of a reply, and we need to expand our reliable ways to respond.
Telephones became commonplace in the 1920s. The intervening century has seen vast changes, from wires to wireless, from listed to unlisted numbers, from immobility to almost universal mobility. These days, a phone call may not be the best way to contact someone. Many of us decline multiple calls a day when we do not recognize the number. Therefore, when we are exchanging information, it will is increasingly essential to identify our approach to contacts. For example, we might say, “I don’t always answer, so please leave a message” or “I will see that you called and call you back.” Perhaps more targeted responses are: “Text me first before you call” or “I prefer text or Messenger to a phone call.”
Email communication can be equally frustrating. Some texts provide “Read” responses. Some email does as well. Response time varies widely and for obvious reasons: busy schedules, volume of emails, misdirection, or faulty equipment. Human error results in failure to send an email or accidental deletions. A partial solution involves a high level of sorting with a system such as Gmail, with its Primary, Social, and Promotions tabs. Helpful but not flawless, this option sometimes results in misassignments that are not easy to detect or correct. Another solution is the courtesy of a simple response such as “Received.” The recipient has responded, the sender is aware, and the connection is established in a way the system will recognize for future exchanges.
Finally, if communication is to be improved, we need to expand our skill sets. FaceBook, for all its flaws, allows people to share news easily. Other platforms attract younger users, a phenomenon which will never end but which can be anticipated. Perhaps not everyone will actively participate in SnapChat or Instagram but more can learn their strengths.
In conclusion, as we recognize our divisions, we need to find ways to ease frustrations. With so much distraction, we tend to default to those things which cause us less stress. Taking simple steps such as declaring how best to reach us will alleviate another’s anxiety. Using good manners to let others know we hear them also helps. Rather than letting new technologies pile on, if we target what we want to learn from new methods, we will open new vistas rather than remove ourselves. It will, in the end, yield more– and better–communication.