I think there are times in life when things just don’t seem to go quite as you had planned or envisioned. I’m at one of those places in my own life as I watch my children one by one disappear from my household. So many people have said things to me over the years like, “Don’t worry, there’s life after children;” “You’ll really enjoy it once you’re kids are grown and you have time to yourself;” “The best is yet to come;” yada, yada, yada. While it’s obviously true that there is life after children, I find myself wondering if it’s a life I would enjoy. Continue reading
We’ve all heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me.” What lies we tell with the words we speak. Every word we utter has the potential for harm or good and likely has more depth than we ever imagined. What’s in a word? Only everything!
As a little girl, my daughter frequently made up words in instances where she wasn’t quite sure what was being said. For example, she called the rescue squad a rescue “squat” and once, on the rare occasion she was doing chores, she asked her dad to come and “expect” rather than inspect her work. While all of her word substitutions were cute, the one that sticks out the most was when she saw a friend of ours transporting folks to the retirement home and she said, “Oh, he’s driving them to the ‘reunion’ home, isn’t he?” in a purely literary sense, these two terms are exact opposites in meaning. To retire is to retreat, to withdraw, to separate, while reunion, or to reunite, means to connect, to combine, to join. If, however, we “expect” these words a little more closely, we might find they’re not so contrary after all. For a reunion to be possible there must be many retirements.
Throughout the course of life, we have many opportunities to retire, or retreat. We retire daily when we go to sleep at night for a brief respite from the day. We retire from the hectic routines of life when we go away on vacation in order to refresh and rejuvenate. We retire when we take a moment to step away from an assignment so as to take a breather or get a fresh perspective. We retire when we give up in an argument and yield to our debating counterpart. We retire when we resign from a career in search of greater horizons. We retire when we take our last breath on this earth and take whatever journey lies ahead, beyond the here and now.
So what exactly is the connection between retirement and reunion? Each evening I retire to my room for a good night’s sleep only to wake in the morning and reunite with those I love. Three to four weeks out of the year I retire from the numerous tasks and duties that define my life so that I might reunite with those things that matter most – living fully, laughing heartily, and loving passionately. I often retire from my writing in order to overcome “writer’s block” or work through a complex thought process, a retirement that generally reunites my thoughts with experiences and the words necessary to express them on paper. On rare occasions, I retire from an argument so that I can be reunited in a meaningful way with my competitor, a reunion that adds depth to the relationship. I’ve retired from different career positions so that I could be reunited with aspirations long forgotten or abandoned because of life circumstances. My hope is that my final retirement is a long time in coming, but when that day arrives, I trust I will reunite with loved ones who have already taken that journey.
Whether we speak of love and hate, right and wrong, simplicities and complexities, or retirements and reunions, there resides in a single word great depth of content and meaning. Little did my daughter know that a simple “misspoken” word could yield so much meaning. As I retire this article, I ask again: What’s in a word? Only everything!
Published in The Oyster Pointer
A few years ago a colleague of mine sent me several emails about a project I had done and the subsequent meeting that was to follow. Unfortunately, due to technological glitches in our email system, I never received any of her emails. As is often the case, my colleague assumed I had received the emails and had simply chosen to ignore her. She contacted one of my superiors who then contacted me to let me know of the importance of setting up this meeting. It wasn’t until that time that I even realized a problem existed.
Think about it – how much of our communication is done via email? If you’re like me, you’re in front of your computer for hours on end, week after week, with much of the time spent checking and responding to emails. But how much time do we really invest in terms of how we communicate with others through email? Most of us get the email, quickly craft a response, and send the message on its way. And, often, it’s not until we get a response fired back at us that we realize perhaps we didn’t take as much time as we should have thinking about the message we might be sending.
You might be thinking – so what’s the big deal? Well – if you’re communicating with an old friend who has thick skin and pays little attention to subtle nuances in your text, it might not be a big deal at all. But when it comes to emails exchanged in business, professionalism is essential. Whether you’re sending a thank you note to someone with whom you recently interviewed or responding to a request from a coworker, following a few simple rules of etiquette might make the difference between a positive and negative exchange.
Generally speaking, your email etiquette should include the following:
1. Email the person back within 24 hours of the time the message was sent to you.
2. Stay away from flashy colored and patterned backgrounds because they can easily distract from the message conveyed.
3. Avoid using all caps in your email response. You may as well be sitting across from the person as you yell your answer to them.
4. After a couple of responses on an issue, you need to change the subject of your email. You certainly shouldn’t be twenty emails out and still referencing the same issue that was resolved 15 emails back.
5. Make sure to run spell check and then read through your response thoroughly to ensure that you don’t have major grammatical errors (e.g., you might say, “Susan went to there house.” The spell check will not catch this since the word there is spelled correctly, yet the correct word to be used is their).
6. If you haven’t heard back from the person within 48-72 hours, send a follow up email to check the status of your original email. If you still receive no response, you may have to resort to picking up the telephone. This will alleviate all the unnecessary and probably inaccurate assessments we often make about why the person has not responded to our emails.
By following a few simple rules, it’s possible to alleviate a whole lot of hassle. The situation I experienced could have been resolved with a follow-up telephone call or by taking a few steps down the hall and knocking on my office door. Simple, huh?
Seems every time we turn around, there’s some new technological tool out there; something more to think about, something more to do, something to consume more of our time. We have dozens of social networks to keep up with and an overwhelming number of opportunities to connect with others online. With IMs, chat capability, SMS texting, and emailing at our fingertips, why in the world would we need or desire yet one more medium through which to connect with others?
Truth is, since time began we as human beings have been fascinated with our ability to connect with others through various modes of communication. We’ve always communicated on multiple levels – verbally, vocally, and visually, via different routes – intrapersonally, interpersonally, within groups, and en masse – through varied mediums – face-to-face, written word, radio and television, telephone, and computer mediated . Perhaps our fascination with different modes of online communication is simply a means by which to create the layered communication we already experience in our face-to-face encounters.
With IM and chat, we can simulate our face-to-face and telephone communication, minus some of the nonverbal elements of course, and experience “almost immediate” feedback for as long as we desire. Email and texting is more like the written word, radio and television – we get to experience it at our leisure, take time to process the message received, and respond only if we choose to do so. And then twitter comes along – a medium of communication that functions somewhat like the P.S. (postscript) on a written letter. You know how it goes – you read through the entire letter, including the salutation, and then you get “a little extra” tidbit of information. It’s like the person says, “oh, and by the way,” and you instinctively know that what’s to come will likely be the juiciest piece of information received. It’s information written on the fly, last minute thoughts, off-the-cuff, sincere data bytes that draw you in and make you go “hmmmmmmm, well how about that.”
So whether you’re chatting or IM’ing, emailing or texting, or twittering your way along, keep in mind the objective at hand. Do you want to give them time to think about what you’ve said before they respond? Do you want them to engage in an ongoing interaction with you? Or, do you want them to read what you have to say, scratch their head, and think, “hmmmmmmm…?” And so the exchange begins…