Do You Employ Effective Communication?

Category: Weekly Columns

I’m old enough to remember using rotary phones, having a pen pal, and Black and White TV with no remote, or a remote that was wired and did almost nothing. My boys have grown up with computers, Facebook, music “sharing” first with Napster and then so many others, Twitter, and Social Media. How they communicate is so much different than when I was their age. How we all communicate now is so varied. Do you think you employ effective communication?

I always had best friends in Junior and High School. We’d talk on the phone for hours. I remember getting “caught” on something I said when my mom picked up an extension line. I never got over that and still need privacy when I’m on the phone, especially if it’s something important and/or personal. It is amazing how we parents impact our kids and leave lasting impressions – good and bad!

During my show-biz career, I had a couple of adult best (male) friends. The one that was in the entertainment world with me I spoke to EVERY day on the phone. The other one, who was my best friend from high school, I spoke with several times a week.

We actually got together, too! Before our respective marriages, we’d go to dinner, movies together, screenings, throw and go to parties, and have a real life versus anything “virtual,” a word that wasn’t even commonly used then. The peak of my career was in the 1980’s and I had a blast. The economy was thriving and the perks I was blessed to have from my career were incredible.

I had a more-or-less unlimited expense account, flew first-class, stayed at 5-star hotels, attended events in exotic locations, and made television literally all over the world. I went to China before it was much open to Westerners, invited by their government and a film society there. It was awesome. I went to Brazil and had the equivalent of 50-yard-line seats at Carnival and had an adventure in the Amazon right out of The Emerald Forest (a 1985 movie by John Boorman).

It was different times, for sure. I have one showbiz memory of how times were changing that stands out and relates to how we all communicate now. We were filming a TV movie in Toronto during the winter. The scene was of a group of homeless people in an alleyway huddled around a trashcan fire. I, along with all the crew, was bundled up with layers of winter clothes and I was wearing newly bought Sorels, the reputably indestructible winter boots. I still have and wear those boots today – a quarter century later!

Cell-phones were pretty new then and were the size of a brick. I had one. I distinctly remember being totally in awe when I was in the snowy cold of Toronto, on the set of my movie, talking to an exec at ABC via this new-fangled portable device.

Look where we are now?

So, I come back to the question of “Do you employ effective communication?” I no longer even like talking on the phone, landline or cell, with the notable exception of when I’m driving for any length of time. That is when I reach out to friends and family and enjoy the distraction and connection.

Otherwise, I prefer texting, email, and twitter. I can answer when I want, as much or as little as I want, and I can ignore something usually without causing any offense. I can multi-task, again often without the person having any idea I’m barely paying attention. I like that, too.

My boys are only three years apart yet they communicate with their friends and me differently. My 18-year-old likes to talk on his cell-phone, Skype with his buddies, and text occasionally. His younger brother is all text, all the time. Both can’t do ANYTHING without listening to music. Both hate driving without playing music from their iPod or iPhones.

When my parents were still alive, I had to adapt to their traditional method of living IRL*, which was special to both of us, and included using only landline phone calls.

What is your preferred method of communicating? How do you communicate differently with your spouse, friends, family, and kids?

*In Real Life

  • Craig

    It’s sad but I use email as my main mode of communication. Every once in a while, I think it’s good to whip out the old pen and paper and write a letter! Nothing like getting a hand-written note in the mail!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Before you were born, Craig, I wrote these amazing long handwritten letters to my parents on my first trip to Europe in the 70’s. Phone calls were prohibitive and mail cost a bit too and the cheapest way was to send this special air mail envelopes that folded sort of small and were on very lightweight paper. I meticulously wrote on ever available space in printing I couldn’t possibly read now without a magnifying glass. Not long ago, I found these letters – I really should go over them and possibly publish a few!

      • Craig

        I really got into writing letters when I was shipped off to Basic Military Training. It was amazing and I really looked forward to receiving a letter from my wife!

        • Bruce Sallan

          Nice. It feels so much more personal when it’s hand written vs. hand typed! lol…

  • Jodiokun

    Love to write notes and so does my daughter lately we have recievedamy thank you notes from her as she lives her new life as an east coast girl. I love to catch up with friends over lunch or a lovely home cooked meal. But when super busy a quick Skype works perfect for me

    • Bruce Sallan

      That is great that your daughter write thank you notes to YOU…wow, you did something VERY right!

  • Mimi

    I call my mom every weekend. I keep up with a few friends from high school via Facebook. My daughter calls me and occasionally texts me. The other day, my 12 yo was sitting about 15′ from me, and was messaging me on Google. lol I found it amusing, but it will NOT become the norm. He was being funny. I rarely write letters and haven’t for ages. I’m a email and Twitter gal, too!

    • Bruce Sallan

      THAT is so typical – texting while next to one another! OMG, have we come to that? It may not be the norm for you as you won’t allow it, but between their friends?

  • Bayou619

    Recently we purchased a pretty sizable home. If I knew it would of brought on this type of laziness, we would of kept looking. My wife started calling or texting when she is on the other side and needs me. At first I let it slide.Then let her know it was not acceptable in my eyes. Explained to her this was something I didn’t want to pass on to our son. She got the message. If I need something I come to to you. Least I can do is show you some respect. Now with family and friends I call. You don’t answer I leave a voicemail. I’ll text every once in awhile. I’m bad about answering those text days later. I’ll return a voicemail message pretty quickly. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      That is ironic about the big house. I so get it! Thx for the comment!

  • Brian Vickery

    Several of us seem to be having some IRL pangs right now. I just wrote a blog post about it, and Janet Callaway has also mentioned a renewed attention to in-real-life meetups and phone calls.

    Online is great – without it, I would not have met great folks like Bruce Sallan. However, I am looking forward to our own IRL meeting in August – hopefully including a game of tennis and beer afterwards.

    Ironically, my daughters think I over-communicate via social media. I have more Facebook updates than they do. However, they both have several thousand texts/month!

    • Bruce Sallan

      I think beer before tennis would make the game more interesting, BV? So, do the balls fly in the high altitude?

      • Brian Vickery

        Absolutely, so they actually make high-altitude balls to keep that from happening…somewhat. Bring regular balls, and they will hit the fence before they hit the court.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Okay, then you’ll supply the balls and I’ll bring mine, too…not the tennis variety!

          • Brian Vickery

            And hopefully we leave with everything intact 😉

  • Betsy Cross

    I don’t have a cellphone. Phone is best after a real life visit-that’s the best. Email from family is just strange to me! 
    I love letters!
    Silence is really cool, too! Maybe I’ll go on mute for a bit???
    Been out in the garden and cooking more…makes a huge difference living where you live!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Wow…I’m speechless…and THAT is rare! LOL…hope to see you at #DadChat Thursday, BC!

      • Betsy Cross

        You make me laugh! Why are you speechless? (Mute never lasts long with me!) Love your chats. I miss a lot in the stream, but I’m getting better!

        • Bruce Sallan

          Betsy, are you using TweetGrid or a platform that allows you to slow down the flow at #DadChat? It makes it so much easier to follow!

          • Betsy Cross

            Yup. TweetGrid…but I have to slow it down even more. t was set at 10 secs. Might have to go to 15!!!

          • Bruce Sallan

            Do what’s comfortable so you have a great time, BC! I usually go up to 20, 22 seconds!

  • David Weber

    Good column.  There is a difference between communication as a human endeavor and the technology by and with which we accomplish this endeavor. The theme and main points of this column are issues I think about ALL the time.

    My “journey” as a communicator mirrors Bruce’s in several ways.  One is that I dislike talking on the phone any longer or more often than necessary.  Whenever the phone rings, I curse under my breath.  If a phone conversation goes on for more than about 4-5 min., I’m done in.

    • Bruce Sallan

      So funny how we’ve “grown” in our favored methods of communication, especially our mutual dislike of the phone! Thx Professor – your approval of this column means a great deal given that YOU are a Professor OF Communications!