My niece returned home from college for spring break the other week. She called me. That’s a gift because Britney doesn’t call me. Even though I was working on something, I answered. I answered based upon her identification in my phone, “Niece Britney.”
She always says the same thing in greeting me. “Hey, Uncle Michael.”
But you must envision with your ears, if you can envision with ears, a slow drawl. Britney has maintained a drawl since two consecutive summer visits to one side of the family. I’ve teased her about it, hoping it would do the job of enlivening the voice that once was hers, but she keeps her drawl.
Talking to my niece Britney on the phone is a little like me talking to my dad. It feels like a job that neither of us wants. It feels like one of us always wants to blurt out, “You know, why don’t we try this another way?”
I love communicating face-to-face and voice-to-voice. I prefer primary contact.
Unmediated and unrestrained from the safety of editing features and filters. I like to listen to sighing and coughing and stammering in a conversation. I protested as long as I could before getting a cell phone. Even then I didn’t add the texting feature. Someone else added it as a part of the corporate plan our church used. They had to tell me how to “enable” the texting feature when I finally caved in. This was a handful of years ago, but it helps for you to know that I still protest as much as possible. I protest every time I tease my niece because I know she’d prefer texting me and not talking.
Communicating takes time and energy. It takes attention and grace. When I say grace, I mean the undeserved gift of attention. Talking to people has become a bit outdated in our world or chats, pop-up windows, and the finger-punching and slipping most people call texting.
Here are a few of my praises and protestations for talking:
1) Talking allows you to hear a person’s voice. You hear inflections. You hear excitement and fear, all the feelings it would take a bunch of words or yellow images to express on a screen.
2) Talking gets you used to words coming out of your mouth. I’m a preacher and a writer, so my love for words is long. But at some point, everyone introduces themselves to somebody else.
3) Talking enables you to do what coworkers and interviewers and supervisors eventually expect–speak. I serve in a church where a lot of people are making decisions about jobs, graduating from one school or another, and a lot of people have to talk about themselves. I’ve noticed more times than I care to count that people need safe relationships to TALK, to make mistakes, and to get used to talking without their fingers.
4) Talking ensures understanding. Hopefully. When you sit with someone or when you call someone on the phone, if you have a question, you ask it right then. That’s not to say that written communication isn’t important, but it is to underline the importance of personal contact.
5) Talking gifts you with personal contact. I’m an introvert so I can only take so much contact before taking a break. But every one of us needs bits of humanity. The most capable tech geek and gadget lover needs people. I think that secretly why we react with efficient automated customer service programs or with nieces who always text and never call.