Talk to Me!

Old Letter

Recently, I emailed a friend I met in my teens. It had been a while (years!) since we communicated last, and I wanted to find out how she’s doing and let her know she’s still in my thoughts.

The first thing I normally do in the morning is grab my phone and check email, blogs, facebook, and twitter. Terrible habit, I know. One morning last week, however, I had not just gotten a bunch of impersonal emails from organizations that wanted me to buy something—I had received a reply from my friend!

And what a response: it put my original email to shame. In fact, it felt more like an old-fashioned letter than an email. Not only was the email long enough to actually sink into but after reading it I felt light: I think I actually sighed with contentment.

The thing is, my friend’s email wasn’t “sensational” in that it offered astounding content. It was, simply put, a personal update with thoughts and opinions strewn in. As I thought more about my friend’s letter and the way it made me feel, I realized several things I hope to apply in my personal communications and my writing in general. My friend’s email was:

-Conversation rather than chatter. When I read my friend’s email, I felt as if we were having an actual conversation. My friend asked and answered questions and shared her thoughts and feelings while I—in my mind—replied and commented. Social media is great, but much of the communication on facebook, twitter, etc, is nothing but noisy chatter. Even when we post on each others’ walls and like each others’ pictures, interaction is often brief, hurried, and of little consequence. My friend’s email reminds me to focus more on conversation than chatter.

-Personal in content and direction. Personal is powerful. My friend’s email was directed to and written with me in mind, but just knowing she actually dedicated a significant chunk of her day to me means a lot. Social media does a great job of bringing us all under one roof, but often we just shout out messages to anybody and everybody but to nobody in particular. Much of our communication, in other words, has become multidirectional instead of unidirectional: impersonal. My friend’s email reminds me that personal is powerful.

-Details rather than generalities. Lately, I’ve noticed I often communicate in very general statements. “I’m doing ok” is probably the most frequent general phrase I employ, but I use plenty of others almost as often! The thing about general statements: they are convenient, but don’t really communicate much. In her email, my friend went beyond generalities. She is a nurse, but rather than simply saying “work’s ok,” she explains she likes working with the patients but that regional government decisions (budget cuts, etc) sap much of the joy she once experienced at her job. The simple detail suddenly elevates her personal experience into social commentary! My friend’s email reminds me that details trump generalities.

Conversation, personal, details…Thank you, my dear friend, for reminding me of those great communication and writing principles! Now I just need to craft a worthy response to your email…


More communication tips, anyone?

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