As a writer, communication is my business. As a person, communication is vital to my mental health. You’d think I’d be better at it, but as those close to me could tell you, not so much.
I just discovered that a communications snafu a year ago nearly severed a friendship I cherish. We’d fallen out of touch for a long time, but it was her birthday, and I attempted successfully to track her down. I called her and we made a coffee date, but on the day of, I got sick and couldn’t make it. I left a phone message, and never heard back, and assumed that was intentional. She emailed a reply, but I never got it for some reason, thus I never responded, and she thought I was blowing her off.
I always intended to re-connect sometime, but was uncomfortable as more time passed, and I was of course going through my divorce and relocation and book revisions and my regular slog against depression, so I didn’t take any action except an occasional web search to see if there was any news about her. Once I got on Facebook, I’d look for her every once in a while, but no luck.
Until, suddenly, there she was. I’ve connected with a lot of people on Facebook, and it’s a dandy tool for overcoming certain resistances, like my hesitation to attempt to make contact again (since I did kinda figure she’d blown me off). So I invited her to be my Facebook friend. Not only did she turn me down, she ignored me. She was gone, invisible even to my searches.
It was like a dagger to my soul. As far as I knew, our last contact had been the message I left, and I didn’t see any reason I should be shunned. And just hitting Ignore and closing off all communications without a word seemed a lot colder than necessary, whatever the case.
So, wounded, I called her at work. And found out she was pissed because she’d written the email mentioned earlier, an email of some length and import, and I’d apparently ignored it. But I never saw it.
We were both operating on the assumption that our last attempt at communication had been snubbed, or at least neglected. Now, knowing better, we can gingerly pick things back up and catch up on each other’s lives.
It’s scary how easy it can be to lose someone you care about, just on the basis of miscommunication. And, as I inferred at the start, I have bigger issues with staying in touch than I like.
One big problem is I hate the phone. I hate talking on it, I hate the feeling that, whatever I’m doing, I’m expected to just stop and pick it up if it makes a noise. I prefer seeing a person I’m talking to, actually being with them, able to communicate in all the ways humans do, voices, body language, pheromones, whatever. And my resistance to the phone is so strong that I often ignore it when it rings, then forget to check messages later. Or I have the ringer turned off, and never bother checking to see if I have any messages. So it’s not unusual for me to finally check messages and get someone’s invitation to an event that happened a week or more ago.
My resistance extends to making calls myself. I put off making a call, whether it’s returning a call to my best friend or just my latest bitch session with the CSRs at Comcast. Making a phone call has all the appeal of cleaning the toilet, and none of the urgency.
And I generally don’t do text on my phone. So if you’ve ever texted me, and not gotten a reply, it’s likely the message is still sitting there waiting to be read.
So, if you want to connect with me, the phone isn’t an ideal venue.
Email, or its various cousins like Facebook and MySpace, is a much more reliable way to reach me, and more timely, as I usually check it often during the day, and I’m more than happy to communicate in writing, because I’m good at it. If anyone out there lacks my contact info, just message me through Facebook, or leave a comment on my blog, and I’m more than happy to get back to you.
I’m working on this stuff, trying to be better in the areas I’m crappy, but change takes time. One thing I know is, I’m alone far too much of the time, and my communications dysfunctions are a big part of the problem.
Be patient with me.