Quote of the day: COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

April 15, 2017

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

“Email, Texts, and Negative Escalation”

In our contemporary time, email and texts are so often the source for tragic separations of potentially enriching relationships. First of all, email and text are both unidirectional and don’t allow for return information to enhance or transform comprehension. We must speak to each other, especially when events or feelings are fraught. I wish that all the people of the industrial world would sign a pledge that any negative exchange that is created on email or text must be followed by a live, in-person conversation. And clearly we have a responsibility to encourage our friends and colleagues to not make negative judgments based on email or texts. So many relationships are ruined by the artificial nature of these obstructive walls, especially when one party makes a negative power-play by refusing to speak to the other in person. They then create the false problem of whether or not the two conflicted parties will speak at all, which makes addressing and progressing to the real source of anxiety impossible. Refusing to communicate has always been one of the main causes of false accusation as it guarantees negative fantasy about the other, especially in arenas that are particularly loaded like sexuality, love, community, family, materiality, group identification, gender, power, access, and violence. Email and texts don’t allow us to go through the human phases of feeling that occur when we actually communicate face to face.

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Email creates repression and anxiety. No one is seen and no one is affirmed. The only way to recreate the normal human cycle of response is to send even more short emails or texts in a row, each with an evolved position. The next one assures you that I understand, as I am afraid that you are misconstruing me. And the final one wishes you a good trip. And, sadly, I have only made it all worse by now being in the arena of what I know is going to be simplistically called “too much” when in reality it is frankly and literally not enough. Five texts are culturally stigmatized as excessive, but they only cover a minute or two of conversation. And people need interactive conversations, even short ones, in order to understand each other.

Most Americans have cell phones now. They can return phone calls on the walk from the subway station to their apartment buildings, from the car to the mall. There is no reason why people do not return phone calls except for the power-play of not answering. It certainly does not save time. It is tragic that we have evolved a social custom that people need to email in order to ask for permission to make a phone call. Just call! Emailing to ask for permission to speak privileges the rage, Supremacy, and Trauma of withholding over the human responsibility to communicate and understand. I say, let’s get back to the first one hundred years of telephone culture, where people looked up each other’s numbers and called. The now “forbidden” ten-to-twenty-minute phone conversation could save the subsequent months or years of misplaced bad feeling. All this terrible loss, for nothing.

–Sarah Schulman, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

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