Shawn Peters, Mis(ter) Communication
On the website damnyouautocorrect.com, there was a photo of an iPhone screen. Someone named Michelle had received a text that read, “I just wanted to say: I love you!” Her response was “Oh babe. I love you too. If I could, I’d buy you a casket.” After several seconds of what we can only assume was frantic thumb-typing, she finally followed up her morbid love-text, “Gah! A Castle! Damn auto correct. Way to ruin a moment.” If Michelle and her beau are together long enough, there may, in fact, be a day when she wishes to put him in the ground, but apparently, not yet.
While this may seem like an amazingly modern tale, it really isn’t anything new, because since the beginning of time, being in a relationship has meant dealing with constant miscommunications, regardless of whether you’re face-to-face, or phone-to-phone. Romeo and Juliet anyone? She sends him a note about her plan, he misses it on the road to Verona, so he kills himself because he thinks she’s dead, then she comes back to life and kills herself, which turns out to be the only way to avoid the “Whose family are we spending Thanksgiving with?” conversation. Is there any reason to think they’d have been any better at making their feelings and intentions clear had they both somehow lived and spent their lives together?
The popular notion is that couples improve communication over time, developing a short-hand that allows them to finish each other’s thoughts and streamline day to day life. Kind of like your smartphone’s autocorrect feature. But it’s a lie. A fable that actually creates as many sticky situations as it solves, lulling people into a false sense of security when there is absolutely no substitute for clear communication between couples.
Case in point. For our 15 year anniversary, my wife Sara and I agreed we wouldn’t buy each other gifts. However, we never said we wouldn’t make anything for each other. Over the course of a month, I wrote lyrics to a song, worked with a friend to lay down a melody and vocals, and then, on the morning of our special day, sent her an email with the song attached. My note at the top of the email read, “I didn’t get you a card… but I did this.”
She was in the other room on the desktop when I sent the email from my laptop. An hour later, she had said nothing, so I went in to her and asked her if she got my email. She said she had, and it was nice. That was it. No hug. No “that was so sweet.” Nothing. So I spent the next hour stewing wondering if she was offended by the song, or if she was unimpressed by my very shaky singing voice. So finally, I could take it no longer and I went back and asked her if she had hated the song. “What song?” she asked.
It turns out she never even saw that there was an attachment. She thought my note, ”I didn’t get you a card… but I did this,” had been my entire and sole acknowledgement of our 15 years together for the day, and she was none too happy with me. I was the bad guy. When she went back to her email and played the song, the tears and smiles followed and we finally had the tender moment I’d been waiting for all day.
This wasn’t a far-flung piece of correspondence or a telegram where we were paying by the letter. This was an email… and conversation… and still we had tiptoed to the edge of a crisis on our anniversary, all because neither of us was clear about what we were doing or thinking. After fifteen years, we can still find brand new ways to totally miscommunicate. Well… at least we’re keeping it fresh.
So next time you’re trying to get your message across to your loved one, whether you’re using your voice, a song, or your thumbs flying over a miniature keypad, the only way to make sure your intentions are clear is autocorrect yourself.
Of course, as a popular viral spoof video reminds us… there are always some things, better left unsaid.