Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

Communication Etiquette

Dear Blog Reader,

My mother and I were having a brief discussion earlier today about how ourselves and others communicate in this modern era, with text messages, e-mails and public Comments boxes on various websites – particularly those with a social networking aspect.

I recounted how I’d read an article in the computer magazine I subscribe to (Custom PC) and have on occasion, after reading an article of particular interest, had the desire to contact the author of that article. On one such occasion I did this and gratefully received a polite reply. On another occasion however, the means by which I was given opportunity to contact another author was by means of Twitter. However, when I proceeded to Twitter I was faced with that author’s Twitter Feed, which contained many random Tweets, some published at five minute intervals throughout the day, each and every day, some pertaining to the behaviour of cats and the colour of socks one might don themselves in (the author, I assume, not the cats), but nothing reflecting the tone of the article, and thus I was “put-off” to such a great degree by the triviality of these trivialities, having had my view of the author of that magazine article instantly changed, and I promptly logged out of Twitter and withdrew my desire to contact this person. The underlying reason for this backtrack was that in their article they had presented themselves in one fashion, but on Twitter they had presented themselves in another.

I then went on provide further examples to my mother of these different ways of presenting ones’ self, the next being how I receive different types of communication regarding interest in my work as a computer technician and the services I offer; I receive telephone calls (as I did one while I was with her), text messages, e-mails, or messages through my website. I therefore recognise how different people using the same method of communication may express themselves differently, address themselves to me differently, introduce themselves (or not), and get across their point of what they seek from me in different ways (or again, not at all) – it makes me consider my own methods and language choices; sometimes, how someone contacts me is not how I choose to reply – sometimes they speak to me like my own brother would (which is not always a good thing when it actually is my own brother). Some forms of communication are, by their nature, a limiting factor, Tweets have restrictions of length and both these and text messages may restrictions by the choice of input device (numeric keypad or small touch-screen display for example) but should such limitations define how we conduct ourselves? And, because we might communicate with certain people in a certain way using specific means, should these things dictate how we communicate with others using other means? Just because I’m short, blunt and sarcastic at times with my brother via text messages, should I be this way too with a complete stranger using the same method?

Here are two example communications from two different ends of the communication spectrum that I here outline that I have received within the past week:

Example 1: Text message: “Can you supply [such and such]”

Example 2: E-mail: I’m addressed as Mr… and the gentleman (because he can be described as such from the content of his communication, if not least because of how he treats me) explains where he found my contact details and outlines his problem and requests further information regarding the services I offer with the view to me assisting with his problem. His e-mail ends with his full name.

I actually received Example 2 some days ago, and Example 1 after having the discussion with my mother, so this order of proceedings has dictated my reaction somewhat, and lead me to write this topic. I’ve also been reading another Novel by Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers), so I’m sure this explains my own tone here also. When people speak in such a way that is of one extreme and then someone else speaks in another, it is jarring – you can recognise which you prefer. My mother explained how she has noticed that certain requests for information in Comments boxes on social networking websites receive polite and helpful replies, whereas others go unanswered; perhaps you can determine for yourself which. Ironically my mother seems not to always notice her own choice of words when she e-mails me. When I received Example 1 the reply in my head was “Yes, I can surely help, let me see what I can find for you…” and I did find what the person requested, but because they have provided no further information, I then procrastinated about how to proceed; Do I proceed? Do I reply in kind and by the same method (which actually has problems in itself, because such brief messages sent by this method tend to draw out the procedure terribly)? Where is the person located? Why do they think they need this part – perhaps their computer has a further fault they have not considered? And… dare I say it… they didn’t even include a question mark, so while I was considering putting on my satirist‘s hat to reply simply with “Yes”, I then thought “Why bother?”

In the end I chose not to reply in kind. Instead I telephoned them. They seemed surprised as I introduced myself in a formal manner, but I got to the point, and in less time than it takes to dress a kitten in cotton socks (and considerably less time than it takes to arrange such things by text messages – the ordering of parts or the donning of socks) I had agreed to supply what they required.

Yours Faithfully,

Master Brian
of Brian’s Blog.

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2 comments on “Communication Etiquette

  1. bribikes
    6 January, 2016

    Dear Master Brian,
    As always, I find your topic of choice thought-provoking. I shall evaluate how I portray myself across differing forms of communication as well. I know communication by telephone is not my strong suit.
    Best Regards,
    Miss Bri

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