Editor's Note

Phone a Friend

phoneMy friend Marlin Mowatt, aka, our Director of Online Product Development, recently sent me an alarming article from the Mercury News called, “How the Death of Voicemail Is Changing the Way We Connect.” People interviewed in the story said they rarely bother listening to voicemail messages, and some viewed talking on the phone at all as unnecessary and even annoying.

They vastly perceived texting as faster, more efficient and more convenient. Life’s messages are now distilled to a handful of abbreviated words, plus an emoji or two. Yes, so-called Millennials are largely the frontrunners of this evolution in human communication, but many of their elders agree with them, the story said.

I don’t text much, but I like its convenience. Running 15 minutes late for a lunch date? Texting is a good way to say so. And texts are great for reaching a lot of people at once. A mass text alerted me last fall that one of the Southern California wildfires had reached my neighborhood, and that it was time to go.

But I can think of a hundred other times in my life when texts could not have conveyed what the sound of a voice did. Like, “Congratulations, you’re a new homeowner!” and “We’d like to offer you the job.” Sometimes voices on the line have said, “I’ve got some sad news.” Maybe younger people are fine with texting because — I would hope — they haven’t yet been in many situations that called for news to be delivered with compassion, with comfort, with shared grief.

As a lifelong writer, it chills me to think we have “evolved” to the point that we now want to communicate less, that we opt for a mode of communication largely devoid of tone and nuance.

This industry depends so much, I think, on what’s not communicated via typed words. Yours is a position of observation, of body language, of interpreting what consumers don’t say as much as what they do. How many times has a client said, “It’s fine,” but you’ve seen suspected that something is off? Maybe you see a grimace that hints she has shoulder pain. Maybe there’s a flatness in his voice as he says the new chair is okay. What would you miss if you couldn’t see the client and listen to what they’re saying?

This issue is our annual Best Picks edition, in which ATPs and clinicians name their favorite complex rehab technology. One ATP sent me a detailed e-mail on the product he was nominating. Before I could even open the e-mail, he called to defend his choice — in real time, in his own words, with passion that a whole string of emojis wouldn’t start to convey.

I know this is an industry of technology, and that great things are being done because of it. I just hope that as technology rises, we retain tried-and-true processes, including observation, listening and talking. I’m proud to report on an industry that still relies heavily on them.

This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at [email protected].

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