I excitedly clicked the green check mark on my cellphone to answer the call from my brother. "Hi Josh! Hello … hello, Josh! Are you there? Can you hear me? Hello!"
There was no sound on the other end of the line. "That's odd," I thought. I hung up. Then the phone rang again. I answered. "Hi Josh! Something must have been wrong with the signal … hello. Hello. Hello! Josh! Are you there?"
Silence again. This happened a few more times. Then I called my brother thinking the problem might be resolved if we switched caller/callee roles. He answered after a couple of rings but no sound projected from the other end of the line. "Josh, hi there! Hello! Josh! What's going on with the phones?"
I started talking louder — as one is wont to do when technology malfunctions — as if increased human volume will entice the gadget back to proper working order. But it was to no avail.
I texted: "CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING WHEN YOU CALL. WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY PHONE? OR IS IT YOUR PHONE?"
I checked all my settings. Muted and unmuted. Shifted the volume. Everything seemed to be working fine. But whenever either of us made the call, we couldn't hear the other person.
It was so frustrating that our phones weren't functioning correctly! I was looking forward to hearing my little brother's updates, and I had a week's worth of highlights to share, too. But continuing to call and call wasn't helping; there was a deeper issue. It wouldn't have mattered how often we kept calling one another because we later learned the issue was Josh's battery. Trying to communicate in the same way was a fruitless endeavor.
Thankfully, Josh and I have been able to find some terrific alternative ways to touch base until his phone can be repaired: email, texting, and Facetime. (I would make use of the Pony Express, but apparently it's not a viable option anymore.)
Last weekend's phone situation reminded me that communication is a pivotal part of all our human relationships. And there are times when we hit communication roadblocks — both literal (like the cell phone fiasco) and metaphorical (like the silent treatment, the cold shoulder, and old cousin Passive the Aggressive).
For unknown reasons, the ways we depend on to communicate with our friends, family, and co-workers occasionally become ineffective. People stop responding to our coffee invites or they seem grouchy during lunch breaks or they suddenly stop using emojis in their text messages.
These are all signs that we've hit a communication roadblock. In that moment, we can attempt to keep connecting in the same way at a heightened emotional volume. But most likely, that strategy will prove ineffective and exhausting. If it's not working, it's probably not working for a reason.
For any variety of emotional, logistical, or relational reasons, communication roadblocks arise. In that moment, it's good to pause and reexamine the situation. Are there any possible alternative approaches? What are other ways you might convey the information? What are routes you could take to express a spirit of active listening?
Patience is not my strongest virtue. When there is a communication issue of any nature, I want it fixed immediately! I want the fences mended. I want the path cleared. But sometimes we have to slow down and seek meaningful alternatives. Sometimes the silence is part of the solution. Sometimes the best we can do is breathe and wait for the battery to be recharged.