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By Eric

I’m a texter. It’s a convenience thing, really. Well, that, and I’m not much of a talker. I don’t know what my peers excuse for texting is, but that’s mine and I am sticking to it.

We (Generation Y/Millenials/whatever-the-hell-they-are-calling-us-these-days) are built on communication through technology. Texting, emailing, Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, Skyping, and whatever other made up verbs you can think of. We’re basically defined by our lack of verbal communication.

How simplistic. Right? We’re just a bunch of bumbling buffoons who lack the ability to socially interact outside social media. Case closed.

As a person who is introverted, quiet, reserved, and quite simply uncomfortable around people I don’t know well, I take umbrage to the fact that we are a generation of poor communicators. If someone like me prefers face-to-face interaction — you know, actual conversation — to texting, emailng, or Tweeting (okay, well, maybe not Tweeting because that is just downright enjoyable) then it’s hard to imagine a more gregarious person would prefer the disconnect of communication without human interaction.

When you rely solely on texting or emailing as a form of communication, so much of what you say gets lost in translation. You obviously can’t see or hear the other person, so all you are left with is words. And as much as I love the little guys, words alone aren’t enough for a full slate of expression.

Without that full expression, there becomes a disconnect between you and the person receiving your message. Almost as if some of the words in the message dropout in the transmission process from inbox to inbox.
And because we are a generation defined by social media interaction, we are essentially a generation defined by disconnect. Ironic, because social media is basically defined as a way to stay conveniently connected. And it does, but on a completely cursory level.

When I think of the stereotype created from this disconnect, I think of a group of people who lacks creativity. A simplistic group of people that lacks ideas or original thoughts. Maybe that isn’t how we are seen by other generations, but that is at least how it feels.

And, granted, sometimes we do over-utilized texting or emailing. I know I do at least. There have certainly been times where I have used texting or emailing too much as a way of communicating with someone. And it has resulted in disconnect.

At the same time, I don’t feel like those quick texts or occasional over-reliance on technology should define me as a person. I do have thoughts, ideas, and emotions (yes, even ones that can’t be expressed in emoticons.) I know that technology has both its strengths and its weaknesses. I know these things, and I try to utilize the technologies accordingly.

Sometimes I succeed at doing so, and sometimes I fail. But either way, the technology doesn’t define who I am as a person. And it certainly doesn’t define how I think.

by Nicolle

I could never have a successful career as a public speaker. When I speak in front of anyone, dark red splotches creep their way from my chest up my neck and onto my face. The anxiety caused by the pressure of having people intently stare at me causes an unattractive rash that I have no control over; nothing I do can curb it, and it doesn’t subside until whatever speech I’ve given has been over for at least an hour.

Photo by Kelly Cole

This wouldn’t be an issue if it only happened when I spoke to a group of people (or if I always wore a turtleneck). No, those ugly splotches also rear their heads whenever I get nervous or anxious, including when I’m having a serious one-on-one conversation.

It’s been the most embarrassing when I’m trying to have a serious conversation with a boyfriend. As I concentrate on what I want to say, I can feel the heat of the splotches growing, which only increases my anxiety and nervousness. And then the splotches deepen in color.

Some of this, I’m convinced, could be remedied if I didn’t spend so much time thinking. I process things internally and completely before I can express my thoughts to other people. I can’t just shoot from the hip; I have to understand how I feel, why I feel that way, what things from my past have caused me to feel that way and how the other person can better relate to me so I don’t feel that way.

Complicated? Yes. But good communication usually is. Communication is always lauded as key to a successful relationship, but like most adages, good communication is easier said than done, especially if you don’t know how you communicate individually.

Until I figured out that I need time to think through serious conversations before actually having them, I thought there was something wrong with me. When put on the spot, I couldn’t convey to significant others how I felt about them, if I thought the relationship was going well or what I wanted for the future. I’d mumble something about things being good and watch as they’d get frustrated by my lack of enthusiasm.

But it wasn’t that I was unenthused. Instead, it was that I needed time to collect my thoughts so what I said would convey what I really meant.

On the other hand, for someone who processes out loud and doesn’t always come to conclusions until he’s talked it out, my communication style could be frustrating. I might take a few (very long) minutes in silence before I say anything in response to an off-the-cuff question while he might change his mind out loud when answering a question I spent half an hour constructing.

I’ve been fortunate enough to date guys who recognize my need for internal processing before I have a chance to explain it, guys who appreciate that an out-of-the-blue relationship talk could come to an unsatisfying conclusion because I can’t express myself when given no time for forethought. I’ve learned more about myself and my communication styles from those guys than I ever could have learned from trying to analyze myself (though I also do that quite often). Their patience and understanding provided me with an environment for self-exploration, as well as a glimpse into the minds of people who talk first and think later.

That wasn’t easy though. All that learning took a mutual understanding and respect for different forms of communication. While I had to first comprehend my communication method, I also had to learn to appreciate methods different than mine.

You can’t control how other people communicate, nor can you control how they react to how you communicate. What you can influence is how well you know yourself. If you can explain to someone else why you need a minute or two to think before answering a question, the likelihood of coming to a mutually beneficial and satisfying conclusion increases exponentially.

The success of any relationship hinges on an ability to talk about difficult things, the things that aren’t going well. If you can’t even get past the fact that one of you needs time to process before engaging while the other doesn’t have thoughts compiled until he hears his voice aloud, the conversation necessary to address the real issues can’t happen – and neither can a successful relationship.