On Communicating

My sister calls me. Generally leaves a voice mail telling me to call her back, because my cell phone is usually off. Sometimes I will call her back. But typically I get her voicemail, because she spends most of her working/waking hours in a hospital. More often, I will email her. Of course, I frequently don’t know what she wanted in the first place, so I tell her to email me back. To which she has a 50/50 chance of either calling or emailing me back. You get the picture.

I know I’m not a phone person. There are only two people in the world who I can really talk to on the phone without watching my watch … because a) I only talk to them once or twice a year, and b) they are so entertaining that they can gab for hours on end by themselves. For everyone else, no matter how much I love them, I generally close the call as soon as I can, or wait until they surrender to the inevitable and meet me for a face to face discussion.

I prefer talking in person. Actually, my number one preference is to either be occupied doing something else (like walking or crafting, etc) while spilling my guts out, or sitting in semi-darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to get the words out, and these distraction make it easier. There’s just something about being in the physical presence of a person … the facial expressions, the hand motions, the body language … that cements their words in way that I can’t understand over the phone.

And of course, I love letters. Back before my first email account (in college, when long, cross-country phone calls were impossible), I would send long letters to my closest friends. I still have copies of the best ones in a folder in my closet. There was something about peeling the thoughts and feelings from my neurons and committing them to paper that helped to clarify and refine them. And then there was the eager anticipation of waiting for the response. Today, email generally takes the place of handwritten letters. And I enjoy email immensely. My social life would be a shambles without the facility of email to gather a group of friends for dinner, movies, games, or any other type of outing we can think up. But I still count the best letters as the ones that come with a stamp.

So, what about you? How do you like to communicate with those you want to keep in touch with? Do you find that your preferred modes of communication are similar or disparate? How do you reconcile style differences?

Jana is a university administrator and teaches History. Her soloblog is


  1. I’m like you in that I’ve been migrating from phone calls to email. I love email. I still talk to a couple of my closest friends on the phone occassionally, but other than that, I avoid the phone.

    I was so happy when our RS started using email as a means of reporting back to our visiting teaching supervisors. I was really bad about calling, but I’m much better with email.

  2. I have to know people really well before I’m comfortable with the phone. With people in that category (pretty much my siblings, and a very few close friends), I will in fact talk on the phone for hours and hours and quite enjoy it. For everyone else, though, I’m much happier with email, and I’ve been known to email people back after they’ve called me. I really don’t like calling people I don’t know well; I can’t explain exactly why I find it so stressful, but I do.

  3. Meeting face-to-face is my favorite means of communication. Unless I feel that the subject will be confrontational – then I prefer email because I get to take as long as I want processing what the other person says and cafefully compose my response.

    Out of ease, and because of busy, un-coordinated schedules, email also becomes the easiest means of communicating with friends in different time zones and with different routines than my own.

    I like phone calls with family and a few close friends, all of which I generally talk to once a week or so.

  4. I’ve also been wondering about the effect of technology on communication. For instance, I’m not a fan of emoticons. It’s very rare that I use them these days, but I know that there are some people who can’t seem to compose an email without them. Will emoticons take the place of actually writing about emotion?

    Also, I’m not a big texter. But I feel like I am constantly seeing teens and young 20’s button pushing on their phones.

    Lastly, I wonder about the physical and social isolation. A Duke University study finds the average American has two close friends ( As the world becomes a smaller place through the ability to remotely access and send information, will we become more content to sit alone in our offices/dens/computer rooms and communicate over the internet instead of actually physically being with people?

  5. I’m such an email person. I almost always find phone calls annoying (both incoming and outgoing).

    Ironically, I’ve made lots of new friends through virtual media. I don’t see it as creating social isolation at all. That said, lately I’ve been working harder to see my friends more often in person rather than just doing the email thing.

  6. I don’t like the phone in most cases, except for with people I know very well.

    I love email for keeping in touch. It’s less formal, so I don’t have to be put in the same effort as in writing a letter. However, I do think a little something is lost as the art of formal letter writing declines.

    I’m not very good at making friends. I’m pretty shy and it takes me a long time to open up to people. The internet has provided me a way to make some new real life friendships in a less intimidating way, and I’ve met people I never would have crossed paths with any other way. I imagine that it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people may retreat even more and lose real life contact with people, but for me it’s been a huge blessing.

  7. I forgot to mention that I love road trips. There’s nothing like being trapped in a car for hours on end to get someone to reveal things that they normally don’t talk about!

  8. Favorite communication: Christmas cards from old friends — people I probably wouldn’t keep in touch with otherwise but who still come to mind in gratitude from time to time. I love excuse to remind each other that we still care, even if our daily lives never again intersect.

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