Effective Communications, When You’re Forced to Simplify

In an age of Internet, mobile and social networks, it’s amazing what happens when you have to revert back to simpler modes of communication.  Hurricane Sandy tore through our area with wicked force. As soon as we saw the lights flicker, we knew it could be days without power and the Internet. We also learned shortly thereafter that the cell towers in our area were down and we had no service to make calls, text or retrieve emails.  My family and I were forced to rely on a simpler means of communication, just like earlier generations did before cell towers and prior to surfing the World Wide Web.

Years ago, my parents didn’t Google and they certainly didn’t tweet to their networks. I didn’t even grow up with a cell phone at my disposal; unlike the 12-year old kids I see today who constantly text on their iPhones. As a matter of fact, I didn’t activate my first cell phone until I was 28 years old and pregnant with my daughter (I know, I just dated myself). You can only imagine the size of the mobile phones back then! It was a much simpler time for communications, but people still felt connected.  You realize the sophistication of today’s technology when you have to revert to simpler forms.

My family’s simple journey started with the power going on and off sporadically at first, and then finally no power for the duration of the hurricane and its aftermath.  Here’s how we communicated with one another, and stayed tuned in and abreast of the situation at hand:

  • At the onset of the storm, the Weather Channel, and social media were a communications luxury. By using my IO Digital Cable App on my iPad, I took the Weather Channel, as well as my social media updates with me everywhere in my home.  I had my hurricane news fix at all times. Watching the TV reporters and the weather people brave the storm was a clear reminder of the importance of good journalism and the dedication of these individuals who reported under the most adverse weather conditions.  Seeing Al Roker and other media professionals trying to keep their balance, while Sandy’s winds blew upward of 70+ mph, was a reminder of how we need to support the media for their tireless reporting efforts.
  • Once Cable TV was no longer an option, there was local radio broadcasting. I forgot how much I like and appreciated radio programming.  When the power and Internet went out our main source of information was a battery-operated boom box we pulled out of the garage. Thanks to our earlier hunt for “D” size batteries pre-Sandy, the radio was our lifeline.  The connection was poor, to say the least, and we had to strategically fold pieces of tinfoil on the antenna for better sound quality. Nonetheless, we were happy to receive any connection we could get at the time.  Our main stations were 93.9 WNYC and New Jersey 101.5.
  • From the start of the storm and throughout its duration, body language was a powerful means of communication. You can ask someone if they’re okay, and although they say “yes,” their body language and the look in their eyes tell you how they really feel.  From our own kids to the neighbors, you could see the discomfort and the fear written across their faces. The words stated have one meaning, but it was their body language that suggested something entirely different. When you experience less distraction from technology, whether it’s smartphones, iPads, TV, social networks, etc., suddenly you can really zero in on emotion through body language. So, when my neighbors said they didn’t need help, we knew to insist. When our kids said they were fine, we knew that sitting together longer (by candlelight) and talking about happier times was in order.  Animal body language also said a lot too. How could I write a post and not mention our little puppies; they couldn’t “speak” their feelings, but their quivering bodies (shaking from fear) when they heard the winds and the banging from the storm, told us that they needed comfort too.
  • Conversation and good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction was the best mode of communication.  In the height of the storm, having no access to technology was clearly one way we bonded as a family.  I don’t remember the last time we sat around just talking and catching up with one another.  It’s not just the kids who spend hours on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds or feel distracted by their online activities. My husband and I are just as guilty of not fully paying attention to family conversations under normal circumstances. We usually have one eye on a teen, and the other eye reviewing an email or responding to a DM (that would be me). The bottom line is that this simple form of communication, called talking, did wonders for us during a very tense time.

Eventually the electricity, telephone and Internet services will be back on for everyone. But, if you’ve experienced the power of simple communications, then, like me, you’ve also taken away great insights from Hurricane Sandy.  Even when the technology is up and running, and it’s back to business as usual, I don’t want to lose sight of the other important modes of communication. I learned more about the people around me in the past three days, then I’ve learned in quite some time.  Thus, the KISS saying … Keep it Simple Stupid plays a role here. At times, this goes for everything in life, even our communications.

Friends, I hope you are safe and warm and did not suffer too much severe impact from Hurricane Sandy.  If you have an Internet connection, please share your best mode of communication (simple or otherwise) during the Hurricane and what you learned from the experience.