While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Abrupt colleague may have a legitimate beef
Anonymous: On working with someone who is terse, verging on rude, and intimidating: I may be that abrupt person. While I continue to work at this, there are folks who would argue I'm intimidating and can be very short on the phone.
Those folks tend to fall into certain groups. When they call, they say things like, "I think maybe I need . . ."; "Let's see here, I think those notes are somewhere . . . "; or just generally haven't made up their minds about what they need. My favorite are those who call and want to meet with you but haven't looked at or even opened their own calendars to see when they are available.
Suggestions that they call back, that I call back, that we talk after the immediate deadline is over, etc., fall on deaf ears.
With that acknowledgment up front, I suggest that people who fear a rude colleague might get a better result if they (a) are organized and concise about what they need; (b) ask if there is a better time to talk (one individual calls regularly 30-40 minutes before a known deadline; when I suggest calling at another time, she says, "Oh no, this will only take a minute" — and her minute is always at least 10); (c) listen carefully and move on once the question has already been answered; or (d) don't treat it as a personal chat. Don't open the call with "So, how are you?" or have "ending remarks."
Oh, and call in the morning. Often we of few syllables manage to maintain our patience for the first five or 10 rudderless calls of the day. It's call No. 11 that puts us over the top.
Yeah, I know. I'm working on it . . .
Grandmother has creative ways to keep in touch
GMa in AZ: On being a long-distance grandma/grandpa/auntie/uncle without growing estranged: My way of keeping a close relationship with my five grandkids is to have a journal for each child. Every few months, we have our journal time, where I ask about classes, best friends, favorite movies and video games, frustrations, teachers, cartoons, etc. They also have to supply me with a writing sample each year and photos — all of which go into the journal. It has been a great way to get alone time on the phone and certainly when I visit. On my recent visit, the 13-year-old asked if I'd brought the journal with me because he had new info. Who knew?
Something else I do to stay involved: I have my daughters e-mail me the spelling test for the week. Each Thursday, I call to go over the newest words in preparation for their Friday quiz. One boy is struggling a bit with reading, so he calls me weekly to read from a book that we both have (thanks to public libraries). I read a chapter and then he reads the next. The 3-year-old gets a bedtime story twice a week — again with a book we both share so I can ask questions about the pictures. It's no more energy than what I would expend if they lived here, it's 1,000 times better than e-mail/Facebook.