Hope, She Wrote: About Personal Communication
I’m fairly dedicated to my mobile devices (yes, deviceS), but recently I’ve come to appreciate the value of real personal communication. Like the handwritten note, — for which a resurgence is long over-due, — we need a revival of real, personal communication.
Several of you shared feedback after my last column (on the art of the handwritten note), which made for some interesting discussion about personal communication (also the removal of cursive writing from schools, but we’ll save that for a later date).
I’m a “millennial”, which means I’m part of the generation who were born during a period of time when cool technological things were just starting to happen: Apple was starting to make waves, IBM introduced the AS/400, Philips introduced the CD, Sony created the Walkman, VCRs came into living rooms everywhere – and even with the introduction of such inventions, parents were still teaching their kids manners (well, some parents, anyway). Millennials (on a whole) were still taught to say “please” and “thank you”, to respect our elders, and to make eye contact whilst engaging in conversation. As the years go by, with even more new technologies being introduced, our skills at personal communication seem to be regressing. The task of parenting has become much more of a challenge (treading lightly here, as my only child is an adorable miniature schnauzer).
When I was young, concerns from my Mum and Dad related to me talking too long on the telephone or wanting to watch “just one more show” on TV after school. Today, parents have a myriad of things to be concerned about, much of which is due (at least in part) to new technologies that, quite frankly, allow children to be out of control. Today’s youth are susceptible to countless challenges that – above and beyond those related to personal communication – include bullying and health problems.
Media theorist Neil Postman once said that “technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, or who or what will lose.” With every advance in technology, there is a price to pay, and in today’s society, it seems that effective personal communication is the biggest loser. People struggle to formulate full sentences, we can’t make proper eye contact because our line of sight is trained on our mobile devices, and we opt for short-form BBMs or text messages rather than long-form letters sent in the post.
With these things in mind, I’d like to suggest that we should all become a bit more conscious of our own communication skills.
- Make eye contact – Eye contact is a powerful thing (and I don’t mean stink eye). When someone speaks to you, look him or her in the eye. Interestingly enough, eye contact has long been associated with openness and honesty.
- Practice common courtesy and speak thoughtfully – Say “please”, say “thank you”, and, don’t feel like you need to apologize (why is it so many of us use “sorry” as a filler word?)
- Remember, people > technology – I’ll quote Neil Postman again: “You can’t just turn off a person. On the internet, you can.” Put people before technology. Set aside time to eat meals with those you care about, make a “no phones at the dinner table” rule, spend time walking and talking rather than sitting and texting.
Remember, people have hearts; nurture them.