Phoners vs Emailers

My name is Lisa and I’m an Emailer. A Texter. A DM-er. A PM-er. A Messenger-er. A Whatsapp-er. I’ll use anything to communicate with you but I won’t pick up the phone. Unless I really have to.

By and large my friends are the same. We exist in the same zone of communication. There is a tacit understanding that we don’t want to be lurched into a live conversation that will catch us off guard, unsure of how to respond, suddenly finding ourselves agreeing to things we don’t want to agree to, with no time to think and decide what to do.

It goes with the territory that we’re all into social media – posting messages on our newsfeeds for friends to respond to in their own time, or not, without the horror of the out-of-the-blue ‘I NEED THE ANSWER NOW’ voice call.

However, it has to be said right now that some of these friends do call me just for a catch-up chat now and then, and there is an undeniable sense of warmth and happiness that results from those calls. I always think, “I must do that more often,” but then don’t. Part of me thinks the other person is busy doing other stuff and it’s just rude to interrupt; part of me just can’t bring myself to do it. When someone says, “Just give me a call about that,” my brain turns that statement into “Just send me a text.” I can’t help it.

In a work setting it’s different. These days, my phone barely rings but if it does, it’s always one of about three or four people. I always know exactly who it will be, either from the time of day or whatever’s going on. I linger, guessing who it’s going to be, and I’m always right. My first thought is always, “Phoner. Why can’t they just email like normal people?” I’ve even set up my voicemail so it asks them to do just that. Nope – they carry on phoning, leaving message after message, while I’m sitting in meetings – they appear to do everything to avoid the written word.

I sometimes wonder if this is because they have a problem with the written word. Some Phoners find it hard to articulate things in writing (I’ve found), and I would say I’m better in writing than I am with the off-the-cuff spoken word. I wonder if this is about a clash in communication skills, more than anything.

Whilst to me, the Phoner appears to be a dying breed, day after day in London I’m astounded by the number of people walking along seemingly talking to themselves, talking and laughing into phone mics. They seem so happy to be sharing the intimate details of their life with everyone around them (I know, I can talk…) and it almost seems like an expression of arrogance to be able to talk about their cupcake fetish, or whatever, with all and sundry. They seem to enjoy catching my eye as they shout the lurid details into their phones.

I think I may well have been scarred for life by phones by a Toxic Person (see previous blog) who used to call me for a friendly chat, but then after a while, would start laying into me. Once she’d had a child, she always used to end up saying, “it’s alright for you, you don’t have to care for a kid,” or somesuch. I’d think, “it’s a choice, love, don’t take it out on me.” But she did. And it didn’t stop at that, suddenly everything I had and did was wrong – my husband, where I lived, my job, my looks. Nothing escaped.

I used to dread those calls and started having ready-made excuses to cut them short. When I picked up the phone, I’d announce straightaway that I could chat, but I was going out in 20 minutes. She started to say, “it’s alright for you, you’re always going out!” Yeah, love, to get away from you. Needless to say, she was my first proper bit of life laundry. I knew that my real friends would never make me feel bad about myself, but she went out of her way to. I just stopped answering altogether.

She did have one very weird habit, that is nothing to do with the subject of this blog post, but it’s always been a mystery to me. Whenever I visited her up north, she’d give me a lift to the train station. Every single time, she deliberately delayed the homeward lift so that I was panicking about getting the train. I realised she quite enjoyed making this happen so I stopped showing outward panic. I’d just sit there calmly as the clocked ticked by, as she ‘just’ did this and that to delay things further. Finally I resorted to giving her false train times. I’m seriously at a loss to know why she did that, and I do know other people that do it, but now I know how to handle it. It’s extremely weird and controlling.

Anyway – back to phones. I know other people are phone-avoiders because they’ve screened when I’ve called (even on Christmas Day) and then fabricated a really obvious excuse as to why they didn’t pick up. It’s ok! I get it! I don’t like phone calls either! When I was married, my husband used to light up a cigarette every time his mother was due to call (the same time every week). For a while I was duped into answering for him, then I realised what he was doing and just let it go to voicemail. He even used to ask me to phone in sick for him.

People are really phunny around phones and it’s not just me. When I’ve tweeted on this topic I’ve had a barrage of ‘me too!’ replies that have convinced me that it’s a dying art. Of course, there are situations where a phone call can do the work of a thousand emails but I’m fine with that. There’s a purpose to it. But what really makes me laugh in these scenarios is that it can take ten emails to arrange the phone call, in which time you could have solved the problem by email.

So… which one are you? A Phoner or a Emailer?

Written answers only, please.

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Interesting piece on phone-loathing:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/oct/16/social-anxiety-mundane-terrifying-psychology-stress

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Share and Share a ‘Like’

Ever since I’ve started this blog, people have contacted me, often secretly by direct message, to tell me how ‘brave’ I am for sharing such personal information in public.

I’m not brave, I’m a Sharer. I tell people stuff. Not stuff that is top-secret business stuff, but all the other stuff.

That’s partly why my friends were encouraging me to write this blog – I was forever regaling them in the pub with my stories of fortysomething dating or my theories on why women shove each other in clubs. And those stories and theories were always connected to a personal experience that I didn’t mind telling people about. Why the hell not? It gives the story more power and the theory more credence.

I think people are either Sharers or they’re not, and I tend to prefer the former. Social media has given my sharing a whole new level of exposure. No longer confined to the pub, I can share my thoughts and feelings, stories and theories, with a whole bunch of people who share too, although maybe not quite as much as me.

Within my group of Facebook friends there are those that share, and those that lurk. I’m connected to the Sharers on almost every form of social-media and we interact on every one. The Lurkers maintain that they’re ‘just not that bothered’ about looking at Facebook or Twitter but they’re there.

And boy, are they taking in everything you post.

They usually come up to me at parties and mutter darkly into my ear, “I’ve seen your blog…” like it’s a dirty secret.

“OH YEAH?” I shout, “DO YOU LIKE IT??” Then watch them flinch because I’ve outed their secret lurky behaviour in public.

Ha.

You see to the Lurkers, I am giving away my very core of power in nuggets of information about myself. This sort of person thinks that others will take those nuggets and somehow use them against me. They guard their own information fiercely, thinking that the moment they let their guard down, the vultures will move in and steal their nuggety strength.

Not so.

In my experience, people take the nuggets you are most fiercely guarding and use THOSE to bring you down. The minute you put everything out there, they’ve got nothing to take from you. You spoil their game. And boy do I love spoiling that sort of game.

So here’s what I’m doing. I’m laying all my nuggets out there, where they can be picked up by other people, examined and put back. Like exhibits in a case in a museum, most people will move on by without even stopping to read the descriptions. Some will stop and admire one or two or more of the nuggets, ask questions about where they came from, tell you they don’t like what they see, or marvel at what you’ve laid out and the rarity of the pieces.

And of course, the Lurkers will wait for everyone else to leave the room and secretly roll the nuggets around in their hands before tiptoeing out.

Maybe I’m taking the museum metaphor too far, but you get my drift.

My parents’ generation kept everything a secret. Growing up, I had to learn what you could say and what you couldn’t say to adults, and like many families, we even kept secrets from ourselves, refusing to say out loud those things that might rock an otherwise stable world. Maybe that’s why I enjoy saying things out loud now – the relief of getting the information out of my brain, and into the world.

I’m the same at work. People that have worked for and with me will know that I Say Things Out Loud and it’s become somewhat of a trademark. I call it the Honesty Policy, with its ‘Nowhere to Hide’ remit. I like information out there, in the open, where everyone can see it and I like to communicate it. It has really good results, once everyone gets used to it.

There is always a period of discomfort where the Lurkers are forced out into the open and made to discuss information with a team. Others take to it instantly, thankfully, or find themselves enjoying the openness and the calm it creates. I don’t do game-playing or politics – straightforward, direct, rational, open and honest are my key words.

So really, I’ve started to direct the Honesty Policy to my personal life, because for years, I wasn’t honest with myself or with other people about my thoughts or feelings. I kept them secret and they ate away at me. I’d blurt them out occasionally and then pack them away for another few years.

I’m being more honest with myself now, but I’m still not at the stage where I can go up to someone and say, “I really need to speak to you about that thing that you did because it upset me.” For me, that is the worst-ever scenario and I admire people who can do it enormously.

I genuinely think that I watch The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea because both series consist entirely of people doing just that, continually taking each other to one side to ‘clear the air’. I think by watching it, I’m seeing if I could handle the confrontation. Nope – probably not. I’d just rehearse with a friend in the pub and then not actually do it.

Do other people actually do this stuff in real life? I’m not so sure. Perhaps that’s why both series are both so successful – they live out our Fantasy Confrontation Lives for us.

A few people have said to me that they don’t share because they think people wouldn’t be interested in the information. Well unless it says something about them, they won’t be. People are fascinated by personal information and opinions and I’ve had nearly 8,000 views so far that prove it.

It has been scary, posting some of what I’ve posted, and I’ve had moments in the middle of the night where I’ve inwardly screamed, “You told everyone that thing!!! THAT THING!!!” But then the next morning, I’ll invariably get a message from someone saying that they loved ‘that thing’ and want to read more.

So I carry on.

Because I can.

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http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml