To answer or not answer the phone…

the phone from my first house and my iPhone

Isn’t it ironic that in the so-called communication age, we are often left in the lurch with none?  It is totally understandable from the standpoint that we have so many different communication venues to deal with, but does that mean that we can be impolite and totally disregard it when someone tries to contact us?

In reaction to my mom, I have taken it upon myself to make sure that I do my utmost to keep up with technology and the inherent changes it brings.  I was on the e-mail bandwagon back when it first came out.  I love my iPhone.  I could go on and on.  My mom retired when computer technology started its attack on her workplace.  She is, to this day, so proud of her decision to not learn it.  In my head, the policy of not learning is like saying that you are ready to die or go live in a cave.  My mom is alive, but frankly, she did create herself a sort of cave.

I started teaching in the seventies and was always reminded how important it was to communicate with students, parents, and fellow teachers.  I also quickly learned that people can be categorized according to how you need to communicate with them. 

There are those for whom communication must be face to face.  They might not be able to or they refuse to learn how to deal with other methods.  There is a certain amount of “controlling” that these people are often into (as with all of the methods of communication).  It isn’t just that they cannot learn “texting,” for example, they don’t want to.  They possibly want the communication to be exactly as they see communication to be.  I remember years ago sending notes to certain “advisers” at New Trier about their charges only to never hear back from them.  I had to chase them down, and I did. 

There are the phone people as well, they use the phone as their communication vehicle.  The phone people can now be categorized as those who will answer phone messages and those who will not.  That does complicate the category a bit.  We now have caller ID.  People from my age group are those who were taught to answer the phone no matter what (we never knew who was calling). We still sometimes have difficulty utilizing the capability of not having to answer!

Some people are totally e-mail.  They will disregard the other methods and perhaps even hide out and avoid just so they don’t have to deal with issues.

Finally, there are the texting people.  I know so many people in my age group who will not text and may even not have a phone that supports text.  It is decidedly a younger generational thing.  I also know that since I like to be in touch with my own children, that I take it upon myself to use texting.  Does it mean they always answer?  No!

There are the total weirdoes like me who use all of the previous methods and even others like skype and the instant messengers.  My thought is that we must maintain communication however we can. That is why I quickly learned that if I was going to be successful as a teacher dealing with people within and without the school, that I would have to learn to figure out how to make sure I managed to do that.

In this day and age we are literally barraged with communication coming at us from all angles.  Thus arrives on the scene the people who receive all the different forms and choose (or forget) to answer and/or reply.  One of the biggest shocks I have had in my change from educator to someone working for a language laboratory software firm, was that so many people will never reply, not even a “Thanks, but I am not interested.” 

Are people less polite nowadays?  Many of my generation would say yes.  I say it is probably the same.  As the French saying goes, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”  It means, the more things change, the more things stay the same. I just think some of us use the barrage of technology to disavow and not acknowledge and/or respond to a request.


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