by Tory Butterworth
I resisted it as long as I could.
I'm talking about cellphones. I actually bought my first one many years ago. As a single woman, I have a fear of my car dying in some God forsaken place without any means of communication. So I bought a cellphone and didn't give anyone the number. I've never been stranded (not since I bought it) but it did prove useful for checking my phone messages during traffic jams and calling in pizza orders on my way home from work.
Five weeks on my new job without a phone in the office made me decide I'd have to change my policy and use the cellphone for incoming calls. Well, only if I wanted to get any work done.
There are now seven ways to reach me electronically: my home phone, my work phone, my private practice office phone, my cellphone, my home email, and my work email. Checking all of them, I figure, takes about an hour (on a good day.)
It occurred to me when I was stranded in a phoneless office (my cellphone having just run out of juice) that, in typical American fashion, we have worked so hard at increasing the quantity of our communication, we haven't noticed how its quality has been reduced.
I have two psychotherapy clients who have moved out of town and continue to have phone sessions with me. I've been surprised how effective these are, and how few times I wish I was seeing them in person. But I do notice a big difference between sessions on a cellphone and on a landline. Cellphones tend to reduce subtle cues of tone and inflection that give us information about the emotional state of the caller. Sometimes we lose the essential word in a sentence.
So, you ask, what words of wisdom do I have about improving quality of communication now that its quantity has increased? Being willing to listen, developing empathy for another person, and having the patience to say things many different ways till our meaning gets through haven't changed with technology.
It's just that now, we're so busy checking our messages, we don't have time for any of that.