Monday, April 11, 2011

The Keyboard Is Mightier Than the Sword—by Jamie Levine

Those of you who follow my blog know that I’m a writer. I write for work, I write for pleasure, and writing is the best way for me to express my feelings. But I’m also a talker. When my friends and family remark that my daughter, Jayda, is "a little chatterbox," their comment is usually followed with “like mother, like daughter.” However, talking about my feelings hasn’t always come as easy to me as writing about them—at least not with guys. And, while I’d never break up with someone on a Post-It, I must admit that my short-lived breakup with Library Guy did occur through a letter—a long, heartfelt, hand-written one that I left in his mailbox. Of course that letter did come after many conversations—ones in which I shared my feelings verbally and felt unsatisfied afterwards by Library Guy’s unemotional responses. So I sent that letter for closure; I employed my ideal method of expression to pour out my emotions, and said my goodbye. Or so I thought.

I have no regrets about writing that letter; it was a good one. It wasn’t misinterpreted by Library Guy, and, if anything, it opened a few doors for us rather than closing them, as I’d initially intended. But lately, I’ve been finding myself at odds with other exchanges people have been having with me via email and texts—rather than employing oral communication.

I love email. And though I was a late-conformer, I now love texting, too. It’s great for letting someone know you’re thinking of him, by sending short, sweet messages out-of-the-blue. It’s great for firming up plans when you don’t have time for a phone call—or even for getting out of already-made plans, or warning someone that you’re running late when you’re supposed to be meeting him at that very moment. I even use it sometimes to apologize to a friend for not calling her when I’ve been caught up in my whirlwind life—and then promise her that I’ll call soon (which I always do). But it is not good for emotional exchanges. And it’s not a good idea to text back to someone when you don’t like what his or her last text said. There’s way too much room for misinterpretation. This used to happen all the time between me and Library Guy, and after more than six months together, I’ve finally learned my lesson; I now pick up the phone when I’m unhappy with something I’ve just read, and tell him. More often than not, he explains that I misunderstood him or his “tone,” and everything is fine again.

In some ways, email is even worse for communicating when you’re feeling emotional; there’s endless room in which you can go on and on (and on), and talk at someone, instead of conversing with her. Paragraphs about your feelings can come off as personal attacks, and the person reading your email can easily become defensive and spew endless misunderstood words back at you. One simple thought that’s read in an unintentionally negative way by a recipient can lead to a scathing email response that will anger the original sender. And the exchange can go on and on…without ever getting to the heart of the problems that you were initially trying to solve. Emotions don’t belong on paper—unless you’re just releasing them for yourself, and you're not looking for a response. That’s why I write my blog. And that’s why I broke up with Library Guy in a letter. I needed to get the words and feelings out…but I didn’t do it to have a conversation. Because when you need to have a conversation with someone, you need to have a conversation with someone. Pick up the phone. Meet at a café. Talk to whomever you need to talk to—out loud. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, and I do this now. It’s great to be a writer; I’ll never stop. But it’s important to be a talker, too, and because my relationships are important to me, I hope to be a chatterbox forever.


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