The Cost of Communication

Patterns are created in relationships. Patterns breed expectations. Expectations thrive on failure.

Communication always comes with a cost. The price of misunderstanding is phenomenal. The expense of failure is insurmountable. This game we play with words, and time is completely inefficient.

My phone rings. The cold screen alerts me that someone craves my attention. My time is limited. Do I respond? Do I feign excitement at the sound of their voice knowing that what I actually feel is resentment towards someone eating away the crumbs of my solitude?

The sword has two edges. If I respond, I’m trapped in a bubble of conversation balancing what I need to say, and how I actually feel. If I don’t respond, I’m subjecting myself to other intrusions through text, or message, or worse: another unpredicted, untimely phone call that shatters my silence, and draws me from my current efforts.

It’s not that I hate talking to people. In fact, the opposite would prove to be true in my world. I am a social person. I prefer the sound of a person’s voice to a dry, misread message, or text. Then why am I complaining about my phone ringing? It’s simple: people call when it’s convenient for them, oblivious to what the recipient of the call is doing. The intrusion is either a welcome distraction, or, exactly that, an intrusion of time, attention, and priority.

Every form of communication comes with a cost. A text sits waiting to be read, and responded to. A message grows tired of being read, but not answered. In a world when people can search up information in less time than it takes to blink, most souls have grown dependent on immediate communication gratification. In that lies the grand cost of communicating.

We are each governed by our own experiences with time. We all possess our own tolerances of wait periods, and communication gaps. The problem rests in the fact that we rarely align our experiences, and tolerances with whom we communicate.

I would like to perceive myself as a casual communicator. I send messages, texts, or even make spontaneous calls with little expectation of receiving immediate, or even rapid responses. Surely there have been times when I gripped my phone in anticipation of a ping, or a ring notifying me that my message has been received, read, and responded to, but honestly, those times are few, and far between.

I know people who count minutes between responses. I know people who search their messages for the ever changing dots notifying them when a friend has been active online, or when a person has actually read a message. They sit, on pins and needles waiting; breathlessly hoping for a reply, often growing angry when time passes slower, or longer than they deem socially acceptable. There poses more painful costs of communication: patience; frustration, tension. 

I’m sure there are etiquette rules pertaining to proper amounts of time between receiving, reading, and responding to messages, phone calls, or texts, however life sometimes gets in the way of life and it’s impossible to impose rules on time, and communication. Besides, what one person considers appropriate, or timely could well be another person’s anxiety inducing deadline nightmare. 

What happens when two people have opposite communication needs? Who “wins” in a battle of “now versus later?” When does one person’s needs for communication override another person’s need to shut down and breathe away from people, conversations, and decision making? 

Communication is about time shared, and invested between people. Sometimes life delivers more time, and other times, life swallows time into a black hole and communication becomes a victim of being put on a shelf to wait for less complicated days. 

Communication is a gift. No one, no matter what role they play in your life is owed your time, or your communication. No one is entitled to your words, your thoughts, or your space. The cost of communication should never be your own worth, or your own sanity. The cost of communication should never burden the people with whom you need to invest your best hours, and energy. The cost of communication should never leave you feeling drained, or broken. Communication, at its best is an exchange that benefits everyone involved, leaving the givers, and the takers with more than they invested, or contributed to the event. At its worst, communication is taxing, and leaves at least one party feeling as though they’ve sacrificed more than they have to give. 

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