Communicatin’

I ran across an old column and was struck by how current it still is. Even though it’s not Christmas, the message is still right on (for me).

All I want for Christmas is . . .
published Wednesday, December 17, 2003

There’s just over a week remaining till the big day so I’m working on my Christmas wish list. My wishes are all about how people communicate … or don’t. Here’s my latest draft.

Peace on Earth, good will toward people.
Aside from the grammatical correction that many would consider to be political correctness, I really mean this most sincerely. More than that, I mean it on exchanges large and small.
When did people stop saying “excuse me” when they walk between you and the books you’re scoping out on the shelf? Why doesn’t holding a door for someone mean an automatic smile with a twinkling eye?

The return of “You’re welcome.” 
My husband noted recently that the nicety of saying “you’re welcome” is slipping away from us and being replaced with “no problem.” Nearly always as we ask for extra napkins or more iced tea, as the wait person arrives with it, we express our gratitude and are assured that it’s “no problem.”
It just seems like a sort of “non-assurance” doesn’t it? I’m sure its origin is the somehow more genteel sounding “it’s no trouble at all,” but this has a sort of staccato feeling to it that erases the initial gesture of stopping to say thanks. I write e-mails to my son now and then thanking him for some work-related thing he’s done. Sometimes I get an e-mail back that says simply, “NP.”

Leave a message.
At the very least leave a message one time, even though you hate answering machines. Give me a chance anyway. It drives me nutty when someone calls and just as I’m diving over the dining room table and falling off the last of the chairs on the other side, the answering machine picks up and the caller hangs up. This is met with a colorful display of vocabulary that would impress both a sailor and a peacock, followed by more of same when the numbskull calls later, insisting that he’s been trying to reach me, then scolds me for never being home.

Listen to the answering machine’s announcement before making a fool of yourself and have enough humility to consider that you may have dialed the wrong number.
My business line, for example, says something like “You’ve reached the phone and fax line for [my company]. You can send a fax at any time or leave a message and we’ll call you back.” Now I’ll admit that I did not employ my most sexy vixen voice in recording this message, but it’s pretty clearly a woman’s voice and the name of my company is stated just as it is in the yellow pages.
The other day, I got two calls while I was on another line. The first one made it through my machine’s message, then the caller hung up. The second call (from the same number) produced this message: “Hello, Frank, this is Bill. Call me on my cell at [number] and let me know when I can come in today to install that intercom system for you.”
I hope the guy got his new, improved communication system installed OK. Nobody showed up here.
The other night, a woman called my cell phone once and hung up. Then she called again and my son answered, identifying himself and politely informing her that she had the wrong number. Then she called back and left a message on my voice mail, telling Rodney that he should call her back for that information she had for him. This, after waiting to hear my voice-mail message: “You’ve reached the Sprint voice mailbox for Jean Bolduc … .” I think I need voice lessons.
Don’t answer the phone when you’re really not available — especially when you have caller ID.
How many times have you had someone answer the phone sounding harried and nearly annoyed that you’ve called, cutting you off with “I really can’t talk now. … I’ll have to call you back.” Then why did you answer? You know it’s me, you probably know why I’m calling. Are you just trying to prove to me that you’re so busy you can’t even take a break to go to the bathroom?
As a columnist, I get a special breed of “thank you” e-mails. The best ones are those that start out with “I love your column, though I often disagree with you.” I’m sincere when I say that I appreciate those critical e-mails the most, because they help me improve as a writer and they show me that people really care about the topic if they’ve chosen to invest their time in trying to straighten me out.
I always write back to thank them for taking the time to write. Sometimes this starts a longer dialogue wherein we each understand the other’s perspective better and sometimes they’re too busy to continue on the topic. This usually leaves me where I began as they acknowledge my thanks with “No problem.”

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