Not a few experts agree that half of the effect of what you say or write would depend on how the listener or reader perceives it.
When talking with someone, apart from his choice of words, you also look for certain cues like the speaker’s voice, tone, inflection, pauses, eye movements and body language to catch the full meaning of what he’s trying to convey and/or gauge how interested or empathetic the other party is with what you’re saying.
In the absence of a face-to-face encounter, communication can get a bit complicated. But even if you were talking on the telephone, you’d know soon enough if the fellow on the other end is really engaged to what you’re saying or is simply being polite.
Long pauses over the phone can indeed be pregnant with meaning. But so is the tone of one’s voice and the frequency with which the listener say such everyday words as okay, go on and u-huh.
U-huh….u-huh…u-huh said once too often becomes meaningless and could be the listener’s way of saying or trying to convey something else.
And what about written communication? You’re not totally bereft of certain tools as you either decipher or try to get your message across, say, via email or SMS. Why do you think those cute emoticons became so popular in the first place? 😛
And even without those smiley, sad and aggrieved faces punctuating your every sentence, you still have good old punctuation marks to rely on.
Then, of course, there’s also your choice of words or, in my case, non-choice.
I bring this topic up (of course, there’s always a lesson in everything I share with you 😉 ) to illustrate what happened to me recently.
To give you a background of the fellow. I met him casually during one of those routine fashion coverages two years ago. When he and his group again came to town last May, we met again and got to talk longer. I found him quite sensible.
The fellow is based in Canada. Let’s call him Erwin. If I’m not mistaken, Erwin left the Philippines with his family when he was still a minor.
Yet, despite his Canadian twang, he looks every inch a Pinoy. Native na native ang dating, ’ika nga. And to be fair with him, he still speaks Tagalog despite having spent long years in Toronto.
Erwin befriended me on FB fairly recently and soon enough wanted to hook me up with a certain Rey (again, not his real name), who’s said to be based here in Manila. Although I was curious, Erwin’s attempt didn’t get the better of me because he didn’t state why.
Man, I have a million things to do. Besides, if that Rey person really needs me, then he should be the one to text or call me. Why should I go after him?
Erwin didn’t hear from me again and I thought that was that until a few days ago. He PMed me a link (which at first I didn’t see) before asking me again if I’m still interested in meeting up with Rey “to do a story.”
Having ignored the link he sent, at first I thought he was just after a post-event publicity for the recent Filipino-Canadian fashion extravaganza featuring Pinoy designers he and his collaborators cooked up in Toronto. I’m changing a few specifics, but below was my reply.
Me: “Hi Erwin! It doesn’t work that way. I don’t think my editor would be interested in a story that happened a few months ago in a place that’s so remote from Manila.
“I suggest your organization start investing on flying in Manila-based journalists to cover your events in real time. If your organization could spare money to fly in assistants, dressers and companions of designers, I don’t see why you can’t fly in and host members of the media to cover your event.
“The buzz is important to your featured talents because they derive their business primarily from Filipino clients in the Philippines, and not in Canada.
“I have been covering your events since you launched it in Manila two years ago. No problem. But I can’t justify your request this time because, number one, I wasn’t there and, number two, space is tight. There are also plenty of events happening in the local fashion scene. I hope you understand.”
True, it was a long, serious and perhaps strongly worded answer, but it was written with sincerity and, I’d like to believe, tact. In so many words, I told him to stop bugging me because there was no way I could write a proper story on a series of events that I wasn’t able to witness.
Still, after firing away, I thought I was being harsh. I became guiltier after receiving Erwin’s tepid response.
Erwin: “true indeed.”
Deal gone sour
That was when I decided to back up and saw the earlier link he PMed me from a Canadian online magazine. In a nutshell, the story revolved around a deal gone sour between them and another Filipino-Canadian collaborator (let’s call him Jun-Jun), whom I’ve also met here in Manila on several occasions.
Yes, it involves money and how Jun-Jun allegedly ran away with proceeds generated supposedly from ticket sales and sponsorships from their earlier fashion event. Worse, some of that money was supposedly meant to go to charity, which Jun-Jun also spearheads.
Now that I got the picture. I PMed Erwin again to assure him and sort of make amends for the tone of my earlier letter. He wasn’t after post-event publicity, after all. What he really wanted was to get even with Jun-Jun through me.
Me: “I’m sorry, Erwin. I wasn’t able to read your link. I heard bits and pieces of what Jun-Jun allegedly did that made life harder for you and the featured Pinoy designers.
“I’m afraid I still can’t pursue the story. And if I do, I would have to get Jun-Jun’s side about the matter. And knowing how flighty he is, I doubt it if I would be able to get some straight answers from him. Anyway, I’ll read your link again more thoroughly and see what I can do. Thanks for the tip.”
As you can plainly see, my letter’s tone was still serious yet empathetic and a bit apologetic. I never promised Erwin anything, but I didn’t shut out completely the possibility of giving in to his implied wish by pursuing the story.
And what did I get in return for taking Erwin seriously? A one-word non-word in the league of cool, I know, u-huh and all those pa-hip gibberish certain Filipinos try to spout in their desire to sound North American.
That does it. BLOCKED!!!