Communication is hard. People have different expectations on how others should communicate, and these different expectations cause misunderstandings and occasionally ruin relationships.

Yesterday, a friend got mad at me because he thought we made a plan and I canceled it, while I thought we only agreed that we’d hang out but didn’t make any plans. Often, people mistake my delay in response for rudeness or my lack of texting enthusiasm for a lack of interest. Occasionally, I fail to respond to people because they try to reach me through a channel that I don’t use.

To avoid further unnecessary headaches, I try to make clear how I communicate.

General preferences

  1. I’m blunt and prefer straightforward communication.
  2. I dislike channels that don’t let you turn off read receipts.
  3. I hate small talks.

Email

If we’ve never met before, the best way to reach me is via email (see footnote). I check my inbox frequently and try to respond to every email.

If I don’t respond to your email, it might be because of the following reasons:

  1. You want something beyond my power. I can’t help you get into Stanford. I can’t help you find a job in the US. I can’t help you travel the world with no money. Basically, I can’t give you advice tailored to your personal life because I don’t know you. Please befriend me first.

  2. Your email is long. Please keep your first email to under 1 minute read. I find 1-200 words to be the ideal length.

  3. You ask me something that can be easily found online. I used to respond to those emails with lmgtfy.com but friends have told me that it’s rude.

  4. I have no idea who I’m talking to. If you aren’t easily googleable, please include a one-sentence introduction of yourself.

  5. I forget. I procrastinate responding to non-urgent emails, and sometimes forget to respond altogether. If I haven’t responded after a week, feel free to follow up.

Social media

I use social media, but don’t spend a lot of time on it. The services I use include:

  1. Twitter. I’m active on Twitter (@chipro). My DMs are open, but I have about 100 unread DMs right now and Twitter doesn’t let you search/archive messages so please don’t use Twitter to reach me.

  2. Facebook: I check Facebook 2-3 times a week, mostly for event invitations. I publish my Vietnamese writing on my public page. I post random life updates on my personal account. Keep in mind that if we aren’t friends on FB, your message will go to Other folder and I don’t check that folder.

  3. Instagram: If I don’t follow you on Instagram (@huyenchip), your message goes to a separate folder that I don’t check.

  4. LinkedIn: I read LinkedIn messages but I prefer emails.

tl;dr: follow me on social media but reach me via email.

Texting and calling

I use texting for transmitting information and bonding with people already close to me. If we aren’t close yet, expect minimal texting from me. I don’t appreciate “Hey”, “What’s up”, “What music do you listen to” kind of texts. I enjoy memes, so do send me your best memes.

My response time is generally between 1 second and 3 days. My slow response does not indicate a lack of interest.

My phone is always on silent so I will certainly miss unscheduled calls. If you need to tell me something that is hard to explain via texts, you can either: 1/ send me a voice message. 2/ schedule a time to call me. 3/ schedule a time to talk in person.

Scheduling

I have a full-time job and when not working, I do side projects (see my books, open-source projects, blog). I have little free time which I reserve for people important to me.

If we aren’t close yet, you should make plans with me early, preferably at least two weeks in advance.

A plan consists of an agreed upon time and location. “Let’s hang out this Saturday” is an idea, not a plan. “Coffee at 3pm this Saturday at XYZ cafe” is a plan. Until a plan is confirmed, I have every right to schedule something else. I have a short term memory so I might forget things that aren’t on my calendar. Please send me a calendar invite if I haven’t sent you one already.

Dating

I’m heterosexual and monogamous. If interested, you should ask me out on a date. I respect boldness.

You can probably guess from my bluntness and aversion to small talk that I’m horrible at flirting. I won’t send you emojis, ask how your day is going, or indiscriminately laugh at all your jokes even if I’m interested. I’m also bad at reading flirting cues. I assume that people aren’t interested in me unless they’ve explicitly told me so.

Conclusion

When it comes to communication, I’m systematic but not inflexible. This post is a reference to avoid misunderstandings, not a rule that you can’t break. Some of the best memories I’ve had are from spontaneous decisions. I’d love to have more free spirits and rulebreakers in my life.