This post is a change of pace for this blog, so please be patient with me. It has become very clear to me that in our current culture there is a severe lack of an ability to communicate effectively. This is an issue important to all of us, and I would like to address it here.
Years ago I read an article in a magazine (I wish I could remember what magazine and the author, but that was way before computers and search engines) about the art of communication. In the article, the author likened communication with dancing. When you are having a conversation with someone you are dancing, and every conversation is a different dance. For example, when you are in a business meeting, the dance is like that of a formal, choreographed waltz from the Renaissance; the dance you do with family can be like a square dance (kind of chaotic in an organized way); the dance you do with a group of friends is a line dance where you all have fun together; when dancing with people you’re angry with it is a break dance (violent and frenzied) and finally, when you dance with your significant other it can be a tango (fast paced and repetitive) or it can be a close, slow dance. Yes, communication is a dance, and we should all partake to the best of our ability.
It could be said that we live in an era of mass communication. We are inundated with emails, text messages and many forms of social media; we have telephones, televisions, radios and a plethora of little electronic devices that we listen to and tap out messages on. People are in constant touch with all of the people in their lives, but how much of it is real communication? People talk all the time, but how many listen? Families and friends will gather only to spend their time posting pictures of their food to Facebook or arguing on Twitter rather than putting their toys down and having real conversations with those who are right there in front of them. People have been killed walking into the paths of busses and trains, or crashing their cars while trying to text, because their attention was on the electronic device in their hands and not on the world around them. There is a great thirst for conversation, but many choose an empty glass that leaves them parched instead of a full glass that would satiate their thirst. It is a sad and sometimes dangerous choice.
The written word can convey a glimpse of what someone is trying to say, but it cannot express the fullness of the purpose behind the statement. A quickly written message on social media does not properly send the sentiment of what a person is trying to say; it is one-dimensional. Brief messages can incite anger; serious matters can be taken as jokes; humor is often misunderstood; and hearts can be broken, all because messages sent are not fully grasped. Telephone conversations are slightly better than text messages, because you can, at least, hear the inflection in a person’s voice as they speak and get a clearer idea of what the intent of their words are; telephone conversations are two-dimensional.
A three-dimensional conversation is personal. When you are together with the person you are talking with, you are able to judge the content of what they are saying. You get the fullness of the purpose of what is being said when you see the expression on someone’s face, hear the tone of their voice and see their body language. In-person communication doesn’t even have to include the spoken word; a lot of information can be found in a glance, a smile or the touch of a hand. The subtle nuances of a person’s character are a big part of effective communication.
Do you dance in your conversations? Or do you idly sit and expect others to read your mind? A declaration I hear often is, “Ah, I don’t have time for real conversations. Texting is how I keep in touch with my family and friends.” Really? How much time to you waste sending meaningless text messages when you could be doing your job? What would happen if you would complete your tasks without the distraction of text messages, Facebook posts and Twitter arguments? Would you, then, have more time to spend having an in-person conversation with your loved ones? (For a great example of how the constant texting and picture-taking can kill productivity in the work place, please see this ARTICLE) Do you really like wasting your time being knocked about in a Mosh Pit? Or would you rather have conversations that flow with the rhythm of life? I encourage you to consider putting your electronic gadget down and start having real conversations with the people in your life. Who knows? You might find yourself blissfully dancing to the greatest tune ever played: life itself.