Friday, January 16, 2009

How to be a responsible person: Cut unused communication channels

Alright, I finally have time to continue my "How to be a responsible person" series. This time, let's talk about one easy thing you can do to make yourself a more responsible person: cut unused communication channels.

In ancient times, people primarily rely on talking and paper to communicate with each other. Nowadays, we have zillions of communication media: cell phones, SMS, Skype, emails, Facebook, blogs, you name it. We have so many of them that we have a hard time following up on all of them.

Now, let's picture this scenario: you see your friend Leonardo walking towards you on the street and you say hi to him

"Hi, Leonardo!"

He doesn't seem to hear you so you say that again with a louder voice

"Hey, Leonardo, it's me, Valentino!"

Leonardo still doesn't seem to hear anything and walk right past you as if you're invisible.

"Man, what a jerk."

You're pretty pissed off because someone completely ignores your existence while you obviously exist.

No, we don't see that very often in real lives. However, this happens very often in modern communication channels.

One very common example I encountered on a daily basis is that people don't respond to emails. If you have decent typing speed (~70 wpm), it really only takes one to two minutes to respond to an email most of the times. That said, many many (I mean it) people don't respond to you in days or even weeks.

The result of not responding to an email is no different from the case when Leonardo ignores Valentino face-to-face: people feel bad because you ignore their words. Maybe you don't respond since you're too busy, miss the email, forget to reply, or you truly want to ignore that jerk. This doesn't matter since the person on the other end still experience the same thing: you fail to respond.

What I am trying to say is that once you participate in a communication channel (be it email, SMS, MySpace, choose one you like), you assume the responsibility to interact with other people on that channel. If you seldom or never communicate on that channel, do me a favor, just cut it. It's easier on you and other people.

Some common examples of unused communication channels
  • Unused email addresses: you can either delete them or forward all the emails to an account that you check regularly. Yeah, I know Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail don't do the forwarding for free. That's why they suck and you should use Gmail instead.
  • Social network site: If you just don't have time for Facebook anymore, please remove your account.
  • Voicemail: If you don't reply to voicemails, maybe you should ask your carrier to see if there's any way to disable it.
  • Unused face: if you don't have time for any face-to-face conversation, just tear your face off. (Alright, I'm just kidding on this one)
"What if it is a channel that I cannot cut?"

For example, I don't think you can tell your boss that you would like to cut all email communications in this technological age without getting fired. Well, in such case, you can only live with that, learn how to type fast and respond to emails :P

Previous article: "How to be a responsible person: Just say NO"
Next article: "How to be a responsible person: Use a calendar"