For the past two months, I’ve been staying at an old friend’s house, who’s helping me out while I move my things and rent a flat in Guadalajara. He has no Internet access at home and he says he prefers being “more analog” than, for example, me, that I do everything “digitally”. We are very good friends but handle things on a very different way.
One day we were discussing how my search for places to rent was going. While I was telling him how I found listings on the Internet to start calling, he said the best way is just to drive around the neighborhoods of my interest and look for leasing signs outside the buildings. At first I thought it was a very innefficient way to do it, but after we tried it a couple of times, I understood it is a better option. This way I knew exactly where and in what conditions the property is. The best part was that sometimes calling the owners while being outside the property got me opportunities to visit it right away, since some of the owners lived nearby and could show me the place.
A situation I felt bad for was when he offered to give me a ride home from the office. I was not finished yet and I was going to take some extra hours before heading out. I sent him a message using WhatsApp but I never saw that my message was not delivered immediately. He waited outside for 20 minutes, then left angry about me not telling him what was going on. I apologized later when he told me what happened, and he’s right: some things are better handled directly, either by going in person or calling in real time to make sure the other person is aware of the situation.
In retrospective, it reminded me of the times when I sent my girlfriend messages and she replied 2 hours later, when my message was no longer relevant, with the excuse that the phone was in her purse and she didn’t see or hear the notification. That pissed me off constantly.
I’ve been handling everything very asychronously or through indirect communication for a long time. I’ve been constantly communicating via IM (which can sometimes be not so instant) or Email instead of talking to people directly. It feels more comfortable to just send a message, very impersonal and you get the illusion of being in touch. It sometimes takes some extra effort to call or go to the person and talk right away, but in the end, you get instant feedback of what you need, resolve situations faster and you get in a better relationship with the people around you. I know because I feel better when I get a phone call from an old friend, than an email or a Facebook message.
It’s a good thing that my friend made me realize this and made me aware of the consecuences of indirect (or impersonal) communication. Sending an sms, a message, or emails might be practical, but sometimes is not the right way to do certain things. Calling someone right away to get realtime feedback, make things faster, easier and more personal. From now on, I’ll try to interact with people directly instead of through messages.
Some things just can’t wait for a reply.
How do you balance “digital” vs “analog” communication?