Thursday, August 17, 2017

Words vs. Actions

I’m a very firm believer that actions speak much louder than actual words.

We live with multiple relationships-family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. We also try and find someone to share our lives with, hopefully for a very long time. We can use these relationships to learn about ourselves. And these relationships also tell us how important we are to them. We use phrases like, "I love you", "I appreciate you", "I'll be there for you." And so forth.

We live in an age of instant gratification. We can stream movies and TV programs via our multiple devices at the touch of a button, albeit not live broadcasts (except some news programs). We can read books within seconds of purchasing them for our e-readers. We can find out how close we are to a potential hookup simply by looking at our phone.

We also live in an age of instant communication. Gone are the days of the pony express, carrier pigeons, and sending messages with wandering strangers praying they deliver your message safely in a village far, far away. We now have texting, instant messaging, email, and yes, we still have the old fashioned telephone calls, including voicemail. 

And, yet, with all this wondrous, instantaneous communication, I still end up wondering if my texts, instant messages, emails or the occasional voicemail were safely delivered to a device far, far away.

I called someone a few years back to wish him a happy birthday. This person claimed I was special to him. But this time, I’m guessing he was busy, as the call went to voicemail so I left a message. A week went by with no acknowledgement of my call. Then a month, and finally I accepted the fact he wasn’t going to return my call because he probably got busier and eventually forgot about me. I felt snubbed. I tried to wish him a happy birthday again the following year, because I’m a nice guy. And the same thing happened; the call went to voicemail and I’m still waiting for an acknowledgment. Forgotten again. I have not called back since. Obviously, thanking me for the birthday wishes wasn’t a priority in spite of what he'd said.

Maybe I'm just too sensitive.

Or, maybe I wasn't the priority.

But, this does seem to be a trend today. A friend was sharing with me that late one night he was texting a guy he’d just started dating and the conversation suddenly ended; no “Good night!”, no explanation, no returned text, just an abrupt ending. One can assume that the date may have simply fallen asleep. Or maybe decided to ghost. It happens.

Besides not having phone calls of birthday wishes returned, this has happened to me as well. I’ve sent emails, texts, and instant messages only not to receive any answer within a reasonable amount of time. 

or text, or email...
But, what constitutes reasonable? I can accept up to 48 hours. After that, I would need an acceptable excuse. I want to be fair, and I do understand things come up, like falling asleep. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch because I know when I’m getting sleepy and out of courtesy, I let the other person know. Doesn’t everyone do that? Apparently not. I also have friends who have families-children, husbands, pets. I know that they come first, and that they can, and often do, interfere with an ongoing conversation. We’ve established the understanding that should they not reply in a reasonable amount of time, that something with their family came up.

What is an acceptable excuse? Death comes to mind. Or being comatose. Because both conditions make it difficult to simply hold a device to compose a text. Kidnapping is even acceptable-provided you are the victim. Death of an immediate family member is also acceptable, to an extent. Severe illness might qualify if hospitalization is necessary; but sick at home with a bad cold or flu, no.

Traveling also doesn't count, in my book. If you can afford a trip, and you are posting pictures while on your trip, you can reply.

Yet, my big overall question is how long does it take to compose a simple text? A few seconds? "I’m sorry, I’ve had a personal emergency. I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can." Why, you can even create a shortcut with a couple of keystrokes to automatically write out the entire text. And between the voice activated artificial intelligences on many devices you don't even need the device in your hand. Simply tell the device who you want to send the message to and what you want to say. This gets simpler by the second. 

A couple of years ago, I was texting with someone very special to me, and our conversations would often stop suddenly. He wouldn’t reply for a couple of days, and then with the excuse “I’m sorry. I fell asleep.” For a couple of days? Are you Rip Van Winkle, Jr? I thought.

"You’ve been asleep for a couple of days?" I’d reply. 

"No, but this is the first chance I’ve had to get back to you."

"Really? You couldn’t have texted while eating breakfast that morning?" Or any meal during those two days for that matter?

"I overslept and didn’t eat that morning."

"You couldn’t have texted while walking to the bathroom? Surely you went to the bathroom in the morning?" Most people do. Or once or twice in the days that followed.

People will find a way to do what is important to them. If it takes them too much time to reply, then your message wasn’t that important. Plus, it also shows a lack of respect because a few seconds’ of time is more important to them than returning that message.

I also believe this to be relative to the importance of the relationship in their life. The more important you are, or the better impression they want to make, the quicker they’ll reply. It also shows their level of responsibility-the more responsible they are, the quicker they will respond. 

There is one caveat. In a beginning dating situation, I understand that replying too quickly can suggest appearing too eager which can be a turnoff. But, taking too long can suggest disinterest as well. That is a fine line to walk for potential daters. But not among friends and family.

I also have a hard time with the excuse "I didn’t get/see the message." Really? Aren’t we are glued to our screens, whether phone or tablet, with all the little notification badges? So, how can you not see the fact you have a new message? Yet, I see the message in my device says 'Delivered' so I know you got it. I see the email in my sent folder, so I know it went out and the mailer demon didn't mark it as 'Undeliverable.' Some programs even leave unread messages in boldface to assist you in seeing messages you haven't read yet.

So, I don’t get it.

About a year ago, I messaged a very dear friend. I could see in my devices that he hadn’t read the message. It sat delivered, yet unread in his inbox for months. Even though it was a simple message-“Hi”-I was reaching out for help. I was in a deep state of despair and depression and nearing the end of my rope. I was considering something drastic. To be fair, he didn’t know that, but the fact that he didn’t even reply, nor read the message, spoke volumes. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself around and I no longer see myself in that state, or capable of anything drastic. But, what if I hadn’t turned myself around? What if that unread, unanswered text/email/instant message was someone reaching out to you for help? How would you feel if you found out you were their last hope?

Yes, I may be being a bit dramatic; I will own that, but I have been on both sides of this question. So, it does happen. I did receive a text from someone wanting to say good bye, permanently. I know I could not live with myself if I hadn’t answered and got help to him in time.

And, I will admit to not replying promptly. I am human. Yes, I get busy and forget. Yet, I also try and own up to it and apologize as quickly as I can. But, if I don't reply, then there must be a reason. Perhaps I got tired of waiting before, and am choosing not to wait any longer. Perhaps I am choosing to respect myself by communicating with those who respect me and my time.

This trend of not returning messages in a reasonable amount of time has taught me that I can only rely on myself. It also echoes a point in an earlier post-have no expectations. I am working on no longer expecting a reply.

And should I find myself wanting to date again, this will be one of the standards by which I determine his potentiality: do his actions match (or supersede) his words?


  1. Your final quote says it all. Actions do speak louder than words. Thanks for the great post.

    1. Once again, I thank you for reading and for your comment.
      And, yes, they do.

      Peace, Jeff.

  2. I will admit to you I haven't read your posts in the past few weeks and when I do I rarely comment. Maybe it was reading this that made me feel as though I was slighting you in some way. I apologize for that. We communicate more on FB than anywhere else. I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I enjoy your blog posts. They are inciteful and have helped me deal with many things in my life. Please keep 'em coming!

    1. There is no need to apologize as I know what you are going through and it isn't easy. But, I do appreciate the time you took to let me know how my posts are helping. I'm very touched to hear that. I plan to keep them coming as long as I have something to write about. I wish you peace and health.