Monday, February 22, 2010


An excerpt from a friend's Facebook comment: "... and doesn't it suck that we just write eachother[sic]... I freaking miss phone calls and some old fashioned Café experiences."

As another example, I've seen things like the following on dating sites: "Don't flirt/wink/smile at me. If you don't write me an e-mail/message, I won't respond to you."

Another online dating profile says something like this: "If you are interested, send me a wink/flirt/smile. If I reciprocate, it means that I am interested. Then we can message each other."

Imagine after a first date: "I am so going to dump this guy. He didn't even bother to call me after our date; he just sent me a text to thank me for going out with him."

Or perhaps a husband complains about his wife: "My wife leaves little notes all over the house about things she wants me to do. I wish she would just talk to me instead of putting these notes between us."

It seems that people have strong opinions about the ways we should communicate and which methods of communication are better than others. But I submit that it is not methods of communication which are good or bad, just that people have preferences for modalities of communication that affect the way they communicate with others.

After all, every type of communication has different characteristics. On the phone we can catch people's voice inflections, while face-to-face communication allows us to read the person's lips and body language as well. Some people like to craft well-thought-out letters, while e-mail or instant messaging allows us to communicate more frequently than snail mail. In fact instant messaging is somewhere between synchronous phone and asynchronous e-mail communication. Each "utterance" is crafted as a unit and sent after composition, though both people can be creating their messages at the same time. My guess is that people choose a preferred mode of communication based on its desirable characteristics, but don't often realize that others have preferred modes of communication as well.

I think of it as similar to the five love languages as taught in Chapman's book. Chapman's thesis is that each person has a preferred way of expressing and receiving love, and if others give or expect love in other ways the person may not interpret that as loving. But if we learn to understand each other's love languages, we can both give and receive love in ways that are more meaningful to people we care about. In a similar way, just because others do not have the same preferred method of communication does not make them bad communicators or mean that they are being disrespectful.

This is complicated by the fact that not all methods of communication are reasonably available in all situations. If I am sitting in a meeting and suddenly remember something I want to tell a member of my family, of course I will discreetly send a text message instead of calling attention to myself by excusing myself from the meeting and making a call. I can't hop on an airplane if I want to have a face-to-face communication with a friend on another continent; sometimes a phone call or even an e-mail will have to do, depending on the time difference. But this doesn't mean that I don't care.

How about we cut each other a break?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

True love

I have been thinking lately about the person I would like to be when I am in my future married relationship. Here is one of the effects that I hope true love will have on me.

Real love, to me, only expands. When people have love in their lives, they don't just save their compassion and affection for their partner, but become more loving toward everyone. I hope that the love I experience in my future marriage will give me an anchor from which I can share my increased love. I know that in my life when I have been blessed with wonderful loving friends, their love provides a sort of security that allows me to take risks in other areas of my life that I wouldn't have done before. I want my attitude to be something like, "It doesn't matter if I fail at this attempt, because he still loves me." I think this will give me confidence and freedom to share with and serve others.

Some couples, on the other hand, seem very into themselves. Their focus turns inward to the point where they become what my friend calls "boyfriend-boring": they are boring to their friends because they are so focused in on themselves. While obviously every relationship needs nurturing and people who love each other share intimate expressions, I don't want to have the kind of relationship that is so ingrown that I hardly notice people around me.

I hope to use this as a key by which I can recognize if a relationship I am in is a worthwhile relationship or not. I hope that you, my readers and friends, will let me know if this is an appropriate way to judge relationships and that, assuming you agree, you will hold me to it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


So I was watching old episodes of Hope and Faith on, and the episode came up where Hope's brother-in-law is getting married to a Swedish girl named Astrid, who has blond hair plaited back into pigtails. Which of course got me thinking about Swedish stereotypes in the media.

Click here to see the episode on Hulu.
(Sorry, Hulu doesn't work outside the United States!)

I feel I probably know more Swedish people than a lot of Americans, including my best friend, who hails from Sweden. I suppose in a way the stereotypes are somewhat accurate: there are many Swedish people who are tall, good-looking, and buxom. But of course not all Swedes are tall and blond and so forth.

Another popular stereotype is about the way Swedish people talk. The below video shows the singular language of the Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show:

While I have met Swedish people who speak English with sing-song accents, most Swedes that I know are EXCELLENT speakers of English. Even my friend's teenage little sister speaks English better than many of my college-age ESL students.

And while pondering these stereotypes about Swedes tonight, it occurred to me for the first time: why are Swedes so popular? I mean, there are tall, good-looking, crooning people in all of Scandanavia, but it seems that Danes and Norwegians don't show up in the American media (even in stereotypical form) nearly as often. Why not? Why is he the Swedish Chef instead of the Finnish Chef, for example?