What type of communicator are you?

I recently noticed a friend posting on Facebook about having their typewriter returned after being cleaned and tuned up. I immediately remembered typing lessons in high school when we’d all be sat in front of a typewriter and expected to type in time to the music. That’s if you could really call it music. (Yep, I’m really that old.)

I knew then and there I’d never be a touch typist belting out a hundred words per minute.

Thinking about those days got me wondering about the differences between the trusty typewriter of old and the computers we all use today to communicate.

Have you ever made a mistake while using a manual typewriter?

Once you press your finger down on a key the corresponding typebar flies out of the typebasket towards your piece of paper, connecting with the inked ribbon on the way, to leave a lasting mark on the page. It not only marks the paper with ink, it leaves a permanent impression. The harder you strike the key, the deeper the impact.

There’s no effective ‘backspace’ key on a typewriter if you make a mistake. Even newer typewriters that had erasers could only remove the ink. The indent in the paper remained. Of course you could cover it up with some kind of correction fluid or tape, but even that left a tell tale sign that something wasn’t quite right.

Using a computer keyboard when communicating it becomes all too easy to rush ahead with fingers flying, knowing that we can select whole sections of what we create and then with the press of a button, it’s all gone without a trace. If we want to add an extra word in the middle of the text, we simply drop the cursor where we need it and add whatever we want. It was never that way with a typewriter.

When we combine the ease of throwing some words together with the instant nature of social media, it’s no surprise that careless words find their way into the hearts of those on the receiving end of our communication. A thoughtless comment on social media or a hasty text message can leave a deeper impact on a person than an old typewriter would leave on a page and one that won’t disappear with a bottle of correction fluid.

Typing with a typewriter was a lot more intentional.

With a typewriter you had to structure what you wanted to say before you began striking the keys. You couldn’t just throw some ideas down and then move them around the page.

I don’t want to go back to using a typewriter and lose all the extra functionality that computers afford us, but I do wonder if we’ve lost some of the intentional thought processes we needed in days past.

With a typewriter you feel, see and hear every key stroke yourself before it’s felt, seen and heard by anyone else. Unless you want to waste a lot of paper, you think through what you’re about to communicate when you use a typewriter.

The good news is that we don’t have to go back to using typewriters to communicate well. We can take advantage of everything that newer technology offers while still taking time to think through what we’re trying to say, keeping in mind our intent and the way it will be received. We don’t have to be careless with words. We can choose to consider our communication.

I think there is still great beauty in a classic typewriter but I won’t be rushing to start using one again. I think there’s even greater beauty in continuing to be a thoughtful communicator.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. – Proverbs 16:24

What kind of communicator are you?

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • As for social media, but even in every day life, the Lord is teaching me to respond, but not react.

    I think that’s a good start in communication.
    The response needs to be thoughtful.
    Sometimes questions are required to really understand what is being asked or said.

    Our Biblical model, Jesus, spoke in questions a lot.
    Not that he didn’t already know the answer, but it showed a lot more about what was being said to him.

  • Back in the days of typewriters, we usually wrote a draft, edited by hand then re-typed it out. Time-consuming! But perhaps, in the end, clearer and easier.

    I think there is another aspect of this ability to edit as we go, as well: easily editable text has the potential to stifle creativity. A few people I know will only do their creative writing on paper in order to let their words flow, then edit later and type it up. I’m one of those who types then re-reads every sentence and edits a hundred times before moving on; I may (or may not!) be able to write a perfect sentence or paragraph that way, but my writing isn’t the most creative on earth either because I allow myself to get caught up in the technicalities. Artist Julia Cameron writes of a practice she calls ‘morning pages’; first thing every morning, before you do a single other thing and you’re still in that just-awake stage when you might be able to remember and record your dreams, you (hand)write for 3 pages. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write. After about a page it can get really hard! And that’s the point. She wants you to push through and think deeply instead of merely scraping the surface of your consciousness. It can lead to some really good ideas and clarity of mind about direction, and I found it to be an interesting exercise though I am much more comfortable with a keyboard. ?

  • ‘It not only marks the paper with ink, it leaves a permanent impression.’ So true! Unfortunately, the ‘impressions’ our hastily written /spoken words leave are much harder to remove. Perhaps we should consider a typewriter approach to everything we communicate. After all, isn’t ‘slow to speak’ a virtue?

  • I was talking just this morning with someone about them old Royal typewriters. I do agree with you: intentional is the word. I also know I need to be more intentional with my words as I direct them towards others.

  • Interesting perspective! I agree that today’s technological advances, in some ways, enable us to simply type and send with the click of a button. And, voila … there’s no going back! This is a good reminder to consider the potential impact of our words! Blessings to you!

  • Wonderful post. Lately I too have found myself reflecting on the art of communication especially as believers. With all of the these technological advances, I find the way we communicate especially becomes all the more important. I pray we can choose to make more conscious decisions about the words that we speak and how we interact with others. Thanks again for writing! Much blessings 🙂

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