Usually when Chris and I have the time to go out on a date, I am not at a loss for words. The last time we went out for dinner, just the two of us, was before New Years and we were annoyed by the guests sitting next to us. Since then our dates have been over weekend brunch, which is often our weekly date. Either way we always have lots to talk about, and there is never a lull of communication between us. So when I read this idea in the book: “The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help” by Amanda Palmer I thought I wonder if I could pull this off?
“One night in a candlelit restaurant in San Francisco, shortly after we got married, I asked Neil if we could just write each other notes during the whole meal. In real time, like texting, but with pens and paper. The waiter thought we were slightly strange, but by the end of the meal we’d shared a degree of intimate information that we probably wouldn’t have if we’d just been sitting there chatting. And we could illustrate our points with pie charts and cartoons. And we really enjoyed our food, because we weren’t literally talking through it. The couple next to us asked what we were doing, and when we told them, they ordered a pad of paper and two pens from the waiter.” Page 39
Interesting isn’t it? What if we were quiet and poised, and did not go on and on in our verbal communication, but rather made the date a written experience? As someone who writes and documents the world, and tracks life moments in a calendar, I can see how interesting it would be to look back many months later and see what communication we had during our date. It also makes me think that there would possibly be less miscommunication since it is all done in written form. Maybe we need to communicate more often in writing? Like the lost art of letter writing.
I would like to try it. I am sure those that are dining nearby might think that there is something odd about our interaction. I can remember when we were on our honeymoon many years ago and most of the other couples that were on their honeymoon would sit together and not talk or interact (so very strange to me). Based on that I am always aware of watching other couples in a restaurant to find out if they talk, or if they just sit there and eat and stare at each other.
Chris will you try writing notes on a date with me?
Over the weekend we are driving into Portland for some brunch, errands, and my favorite–an artisan craft fair. While multi-tasking on my iPhone I say something about adding something to our list for the day, and then mumble: “you must love my lists” (noted in a sarcastic tone). His response: “Your lists keep us together.”
I will remind you (in case you are not aware). Chris is a relatively quiet guy. He does not talk if he does not have anything to say, and often I have to pry his thoughts out of him. So when I got this long response, I quickly grabbed a pen and pad of paper from the glove box (because quite frankly I am old school and I cannot type that fast on my iPhone).
The rest of the conversations goes like this…quotes are Chris’ words:
“There are 2.5 things we fight about – whenever we fight – which is rare:
My lack of follow through or lack of communication.
Your hunger tantrums – aka when you are “hangry.”
#3 is really 2.5, as it only gets really 1/2 a point in my mind… When you comment on my driving.
Your lists are what keep us together. It keeps us on the same page. So keep adding items to your lists, keep tracking as you do.”
Not only was that a succinct quote from my hubby, it was also very profound. He is right. We rarely fight and it usually is over something that was not communicated, or miscommunicated, or my biggest pet peeve of all is lack of follow through. I am not going to comment on #2.5 because as a passenger I reserve the right to share my concern when I have one. You might be thinking, “How is it possible that you only have 2.5 things you generally fight about?” I have to agree with him that is the complete list. #1 is for him, #2 is for me, and like I said we’ll just ignore #2.5.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the term: “co-pilot.” It is applicable to so many parts of our life. Our spouse or partner is our co-pilot, whether that means in how you parent, deal with your family, or even how you support each other. Using the term co-pilot is not meant to confuse you. In flight terms the co-pilot is second in command to the pilot. Remove that notion from your thought right now, and think of co-pilot as it is defined. “Co” meaning joint or mutually. Are you with me so far?
Think of it in the realm of parenting. If one parent is always the pushover and the other is always the firm one it can cause issues with the kids (not that I have kids and truly can speak to it but just stay with me for a second or two). Going back to pilots. In order for those pilots to fly that plane (all modern conveniences aside) is that they have to be mutually connected to the task at hand. They have to know what the other is responsible for during the flight, so that they do not override each other and potentially create turmoil for their passengers. Just like if parents communicate and are on the same page, it creates a much clearer message for children to follow. Still with me?
It also translates to a work environment. Many individuals have to share a role with a peer, or co-lead a team. In order for that team to run smoothly they need to communicate clearly with each other, make sure they are on the same page, ensure there is clarity of roles, and then execute based on what is mutually agreed upon. If one individual does not communicate with the other, it can lead to resentment, frustration, and have a trickle down effect to the rest of the team. The same goes for marriage: clear communication, clarity of roles, and follow through with what was agreed upon. Quite simple right?
See how many areas of our lives we have to share responsibilities and be very clear on what end result we are driving towards? Yes, I am making it simple, and it actuality is an intricate web of personal dynamics, differences of opinion, and emotions that can lead to a multitude of responses and outcomes. Yet, if we just go back to the idea of “co” and make sure that we are making choices that are mutual, joint, and inclusive we might begin to weave a cohesive, strong, and unflappable thread in our marriage, family, and work environments.
Have you ever thought about how words matter? Writing is my world. Yes, I have other strengths and focuses, but at the end of the day, if I could do what I wanted it would be to write, play on the potter’s wheel, bring out a blow torch and do encaustic paintings, oh the list goes on and always tends to involve creative outputs. Words, though, dictate so much. You can provide a visual explanation of art through a painting, but to me words can bluntly or eloquently tell folks what you really think. They matter. They change emotions, moods, and communicate a variety of informative details.
Words alone do nothing. They have to be interspersed with tone, intention, care, and purpose. Without the emotion and care words have meaning but they stand alone. Sometimes even with the best intentions, how words are communicated can turn individuals away, make them feel guarded, alone, separate. With the best intentions and carefully crafted, words can make individuals feel included, respected, and valued. Words matter.
I am passionate about the selection of words, their meaning, and their intent. I think about it for almost every email I draft, every communication I write — whether for work, or among friends. I wonder, though, do we all think about our words and their effects on those around us? Do we write to make others feel inspired, engaged, and excited about what they are reading? Sometimes. Other times our words fall on deaf ears because we do not communicate well. We miss moments and opportunities to have a direct connection with our reader.
Yes, words matter. Think about that as you draft that next email, communication, blog post, Facebook post, whatever vehicle you use to share your ideas. You might find, as you focus on the words, you receive a different response from your reader.
I am not a phone call person, but I do love my smartphone. I screen my phone calls, which means I will look at the caller ID and then not answer the phone. If you show up in my address book, I usually will answer but if your number does not exist in my phone, then I most likely will not answer your call. Is it sad that I want to know who is calling me before I answer the phone? Even so, I am usually faster at responding to your email, and even faster at responding to your text, than your phone call. Why?
A phone call takes longer. You never know how long it will last. An email you can decide when you feel inspired to respond, or when you have the brain space, and a text is usually short, sweet, and quick. Often you would get the most responses from me via text. I can remember the wall phone in our kitchen growing up had the longest cord. I am sure the long cord drove my parents crazy. When we received a phone call from a friend we would pull the cord as long it would go, and sit on the toilet in the hall bathroom and close the door (both for privacy and the heat coming from the floor vent). I no longer crave being on the phone as I did as a kid in that hall bathroom.
Last weekend, during Portland’s mini snowstorm, I caught up on my Fast Company magazines and found the article: “Secrets of the Most Productive People” in the December 2013/January 2014 issue, Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of Reddit said:
“To me, the idea of calling someone unprompted is basically saying, ‘Hey, stop whatever you’re doing and talk to me right now.’ If you find yourself in the middle of something, getting an unprompted annoyance is incredibly frustrating. So I try to respect that. Unless it’s really an emergency, I’m not going to bother you. And you can see people chafe at that. You’re in the same office and instant-message each other? Why don’t you just walk over? That’s the perfect example of how ingrained the status quo is. To certain people, it may seem lazy, but I would argue it’s much more efficient and considerate.”
I so agree with Ohanian. As we have drifted from corded phones, to cordless phones, to smart phones our etiquette maybe has not caught up. When I talk on the phone with a friend or family member it is because I have either answered their call, or I have decided to dedicate that time just to them. Now that does not mean I might not be doing dishes, or cleaning the bathroom, but I am not working or multi-tasking in ways that means my mind is not on their phone call. The phone for me is used when I can dedicate my thoughts and mind space to that person. Email has become a way to communicate when schedules and time zones do not align to be able to always communicate via phone. Text is for instant and quick communication.
I can also tell you that I do instant message someone in my same area, and not walk over to their desk. Why? Is it lazy? Yes, and no. Often we are working on different projects and rather than interrupt another individual’s flow of work, an instant message means that you can ask a question and they can answer when it works for them. What do you prefer? A phone call, email, or text message?