Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Communicate with love 14th February 2017 by Susanne Irving

Our writers’ group has recently experimented with holding the writers’ group online. It saves on travelling time, which is especially helpful in winter, when weather conditions can be unpredictable. It also allows people to attend who would otherwise not be able to come. One of our writers sometimes joins us from Spain!

However, I am also aware of the many challenges involved when communicating via the internet. There are a lot of technical issues that can get in the way of clear communication. There is the internet connection at either end, which can be slow or drop, leading to distorted voices and frozen webcam images.

In an age where most people have internet-ready equipment, the problem may be that I or the other party are not using our equipment correctly. (I have on occasion forgotten to switch my speaker on, stopping the other party from hearing what I am saying…) Other technical issues that can prevent effective communication are issues with the access circuit, power supply or platform.

Sometimes I have no choice but to abandon my efforts to communicate online and have to pick up the phone or visit the other person.

I have also had to make allowances for differences when speaking to someone online. It may appear that people don’t hold eye-contact with me because they are looking at me through their camera. I am also aware that I cannot see the whole person, and I have got used to describing to the person on the other end what I am doing (“I am just going to write this down”) because I know they won’t see my hands.

Then there is the disinhibition effect – people often share more freely and quickly online. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what and how people are sharing. I am always trying to bear in mind that our words have power for good or ill and that we are called to tell the truth in love – often it is best not to send an e-mail or message in the heat of the moment, but take time to reflect and pray about it before pressing the “send” button.

It strikes me that I am much more aware of the pitfalls in communication when I am online and that it would be good practice to apply what I have learned in the virtual world to the “real” world:

  • Check whether there is anything that might be blocking communication – I may need to change the way I am communicating to overcome the obstacle. 

  • Make allowances for differences. I cannot assume that the other person will know what I mean or that they think and feel like me.

  • True communication is a dialogue and not a monologue. People are more likely to listen if they feel loved and respected – and not just on Valentine’s day.

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. It is aimed at both trekkers and those who are going through a dark time in their lives. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.

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