Verbal versus Written Conversations

Verbal vs Written

Over the years I found myself writing a lot. From a cold start – that is without any preparation at all – I can type about 75 word per minute. That is alright. But I do know that I have averaged much higher over the years especially when I get into the “zone”. Writing takes skill, however. Anyone can write, but to write with clarity and with economy of words is truly something that takes experience and also talent. In this, my wife has the better skill in writing. I have to remind myself that everyone has their own style – some are more long-winded than others, while others are more descriptive than others, and there are those who are just very academic – dry and to the point. Is one better than the other? No – it depends on the circumstances.

Unfortunately, there are some who have declared themselves “masters” of this craft and thinks too highly of themselves in this particular skill. I remember one who would declare boldly declare that this or that author has a lot of flowery words and long-winded – indirectly putting the person down in his ‘authoritative’ declaration – while elevating authors who shared the same writing style as himself. This is nonsense. But to an impressionable young person (that I was then), in my mind, written works had to be of a certain style.

The truth of the matter is: literature allows for a variety of styles. Even within the academic realm, there is room for the style of Michael Porter and for the writings of John W. Creswell and of Peter Drucker. It would be extremely foolish for one to be declared better than the other. If it is a matter of preference, that is an entirely other thing.

For myself, writing should be as close as possible to a person’s verbal style. Perhaps this is my personal preference, but I want to ‘read’ and ‘hear’ the voice of the author. I think it would be quite shocking to meet the author in person only to find that the person speaks different from the way he/she writes. That would be quite shocking (to me, at least).

That is why I find it hard to write at times – I often wait for the ‘mood’ or the ‘circumstances to align’ before typing the first word of the article or written correspondence. When everything aligns, I find that I speed as fast as I can think. Is that good? I do not know. But the downside is that the writing suffers for lack of ‘editing’.

This whole RMO (Restricted Movement Order) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has made me appreciate verbal conversations. For me, speaking face-to-face is “easier” because words can always be accompanied with gestures and any other physical actions. Even the intonation of words can really convey things that cannot be conveyed on paper. To me, the main advantage that writing has over verbal is the need to think, re-think and re-think again before we finalise and send our message. That gives more meaningful food for thought rather than the easy misinterpretation of our modern means written communication (Whatsapp, Telegram, Wechat, and the like).

Verbal communication is hard because it can easily get side-tracked. Our emotions can affect the way we communicate – whether we realise it or not. At times, this hampers the very purpose we intended. It is rare for younger generations to understand the unwritten rules of verbal communication – we tend to be impatient to make our points and to speed the whole conversation along. Perhaps that is the reason that the new generation detest orations and speeches – but prefer the fluidity of podcast sessions where people are constantly talking and changing topics.

But when we master the art of verbal communication, we find that our ideas are nearly always communicated clearly – dispelling misunderstanding and encouraging cooperation. In fact, a sudden pause in the verbal communication speaks volumes in ways that the written medium just cannot encapsulate.

I do miss verbal communications that are honest, unfiltered and unreserved. Those are almost always with people whom we can trust (non-self-righteous and hypocritical) and with those whom we can be vulnerable to. Cultivate both skills and life will be sweetened somewhat by it.

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