Ralph Kramden and Fred Flintstone – birds of a ferociously loud feather flock on classic TV together. Wilma! Alice! These two American blowhards are indelibly imprinted on our collective pop culture consciousness, and though their adventures with pals Ed Norton (Art Carney) and Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc) are mostly silly Hollywood fun, they actually imparted a few pearls of usable wisdom. What do the animated stone age of The Flintstones have in common with the sitcom zaniness of The Honeymooners, from New York City in the 1950’s? Plenty – when it comes to how we communicate with our loved ones and business associates.
Never Put It In Writing
Or is it – Always get it in writing? Yes, there’s a definite contradiction here.
For business contracts – or even casual friend and acquaintanceship or family dealings – getting things in writing when it comes time for negotiation and deals is pretty basic and essential. The problems come in other ways of interacting – namely the friendly, emotional and more powerfully human ways we deal with each other.
Emails are now such a common everyday tool that we often don’t think about what we compose before we press send. It can’t be overstated: Think about what you’re writing and that this email will always exist in some form, so don’t be ashamed of your correspondence.
Ralph Kramden – The Honeymooners
Old Buttercup. It’s wife Alice’s nickname for bus driver hubby Ralph. It also becomes the memorable joke for an episode which cautions us to be careful when we’re recording messages.
Sending voice mails and using other digital audio recording devices have been commonplace for years. Like email, we should always think about what we’re recording for posterity. Ralph – after a big fight involving Alice’s mother – he uses a phonograph recorder to send Alice an apology. On pal Norton’s advice and counsel, Ralph records the record – the only problem is that he gets carried away, still angry at his mother-in-law, and proceeds to call her a blabbermouth and generally criticize her. Norton makes the mistake of mailing off that record to Alice – who’s taken refuge at her Mom’s place while Ralph cools down.
Fred Flintstone – The Flintstones
Mr. Slate, Fred’s boss at the rock quarry, isn’t exactly treating Fred with the respect that he feels he’s deserving of as an employee. In fact, everyone seems to be getting a nice pay raise but Fred Flintstone. Fred can’t contain his anger anymore, so he fires off a rage filled letter and mails it to his boss. When Mr. Slate makes good on his mistake, and says he’ll pay Fred more, Wilma Flintstone tries to intercept her hubby’s rant letter before Slate can read it and have a change of heart about the raise.
Emails, Texting & Voice Mails Never Die & Can Lie
Not only do Fred and Ralph’s communication dilemmas illustrate how easy it is to make mistakes when sending messages to people when focused on deeply emotional issues, but it throws a human equation out the window. A letter can’t fully convey a person’s emotional state like the tone and timbre of a voice or their facial expressions. A recording – say a heartfelt voice mail – is much better at that task, but no visual and no way to undo the damage once sent still makes it a risky proposition when you want to get an important message across.
Nothing beats meeting with people in person, but today we do have better alternatives. With video conference tools like Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s Facetime, there now exists ways to ‘meet’ with people in real time face to face – at least virtually. Choosing these options over a hastily composed email or recording seems optimal, when needing important interaction. If you don’t want a misunderstanding, if you wish to quickly follow up on points you’ve made or address things in real time, a live meet is paramount. Fred Flintstone and Ralph Kramden may not have used them, but no doubt would be Yabba Dabba Do to the moon overjoyed if they got into the habit.