I used to think of how transformational life must have seemed to my grandmother, born in an age of horse drawn carriages, and sending someone to your home if there was a message to relay. She saw the rise of automobiles, the invention of the phone, and a tone of innovations that were common by the time I was born. Sometimes when I spoke with my grandmother there was an odd sense of being lost in the rapid transition from a simple life to one that is moving faster, supposidly improved by technology. I thought it odd that she would fee a bit lost, but i realize how much I can say I feel that way sometimes.
Not lost in comprehending the technology, but overwhelmed by how much technology has taken over so much of our life, and changed how we communicate with each other.
It first became noticeable one evening when we were eating out at a restaurant. A young professional looking couple were seated at the next table, each holding their iphones, texting away one at a time, the other chuckling and texting back. Clearly holding a text conversation while seated together.
But that was just a symptom of the communication change that has been transforming the world, and i am not so convinced it is a good one.
Perhaps i am dating myself, or perhaps i am just of a different era, but i love to talk with people face to face, or if left to a conversation by phone i prefer to talk, rather than text. Words can sound so cold, or the intention be misunderstood easily. There is something in the inflections of speech, the non verbal ques, the body language, facial expressions… and when it boils down to texts none of this is available to judge the tone and intent. And often people will then misjudge the real intention of the conversation.
So my challenge here is to put down the phone, tablet, laptop, or other electronic device, and discover again the joy of face to face communication. It has been a mainstay since time began… and there is a rich sense of satisfaction when you spend time listening to and being heard by others.
At the heart of the communication shift is a loss of the human side of life… Here are 7 things we miss when it comminication is email, text or social media:
- Eye to eye contact – there is something deeply moving about looking into someone else’s eyes. You can often tell if they are truthful, fearful, or any number of emotions based on the willingness to look at your eyes.
- Facial expression – the same sentance can sound absolutely different based on the expression – are they looking happy, fearful, angry, sad?
- Body Language – Are they leaning forward, soaking in the conversation, or sitting back, crossing their arms to indicate they are blocking the conversation?
- Vocal tone – are they loud and inflective, or soft and quiet? Did the words come out sounding harsh, rushed, slow, intentional?
- Are they present? – Are they engaged in the conversation, or do they look like their mind is miles away?
- Active listener? Do they listen while you speak, and build on what was said? or do they just bolt into what they want to say when there is lull in the conversation?
- Activity while listening – Have you ever had a conversation with someone and had the distinct sense they really heard nothing because they were looking over your shoulder, checking their cell phone, and generally distracted? Or on the other hand, they were so deeply engaged you had to end the conversation because it was so intense?
And not to sound formula, but here are a few suggestions for maximizing the conversation:
- Actively decide to listen, and comment on at least one point made in the talk
- Read, absorb facts, information, and anything that might help make the conversation extend. For example, if someone loves art, discuss the latest art show, museum exhibit, or some fun fact about a piece of work.
- Find common ground. Or try to learn a bit about that person’s interests. I have a neighbor that is an old car buff – i have no clue about car models, etc – but i have done some reading to know roughly what they are talking about.
- Repeat points that were made by the other person, or clarify. This indicates you are actively listening
- Dont spend the time thinking of what you will say to them – go with the flow… respond appropriately.