March 3, 2008

Taming technology, training me

Before voice mail and caller ID, before cellphones even, a friend showed me a liberating lesson by letting the phone ring. I thought of that when someone suggested I try silence when stumbling over the difficult task of saying "no.".

Back to the phones. At first, I was puzzled. Didn't he hear the ringing phone? Is he avoiding someone? It didn't take many incidents before I had to ask why he didn't answer the calls.

His answer: I am busy right now talking to you.

Whoa. To someone accustomed to racing to the rings, that was eye-opening. The technology does not tame me. I can choose, much in the way people once collected the mail and held onto a letter to read in a quiet time.

We can choose the importance of the call when it happens, weighing what we are doing at the time.

It is the same with SMS, AIM, and even email. Instant responses may be expected. They don't have to be given - then.

I still slip sometimes if I am near the ringing phone. My eyes will dart to the panel of numbers announcing the caller.

That gesture, though, is rude to the person who is already talking to me - in person.

I wish others learned that lesson of politeness prior to getting a cellphone. Then, fewer people would chat while being waited on or sitting in a crowded waiting room. That is an easy, a familiar rant.

I am trying to use that lesson to answer questions that have no answers or don't deserve answers or where the only right answer is no.

I want to master the technique of greeting an unbelevable request with silence. Not the "give me a second to round up my thoughts" silence.

I want the silence that says "are you serious?"

I want the silence that makes you realize you popped the wrong request to the wrong person.

I want the silence that will remind me that says it is OK to say no and to be polite to myself.

We make choices. Companies even. Just because I have made foolish choices in the past, I do not have to repeat them. Just because I have invested heavilly in a project, a plan, I do not need to ensure its success forever.

It is a matter of survival.


Post a Comment