We move at the speed of communication light, no? Or at least we seem to. And so much of that these days includes the “always connected” syndrome on social media with our smart devices.
Don’t you sometimes feel you’re always up’n internet going? I know at times I do.
Studies are now coming out about the pitfalls of this—everything from shortened attention spans to isolation and depression to text neck from constantly being bent over.
But a bigger demon in this den is slowing down enough to have a deep conversation. You know the kind—where you actually take the time to sit down and truly communicate with another.
Imagine what it would be like 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago, when the majority of your communication was face to face—without a smart device in your hand. You know—where your attention was on the actual person you were speaking with.
How often have you sent an email, text, etc., only to find the person on the receiving end took your message all wrong? This happens to us all—even us writer folks, who are supposed to be good with words on the page!
Annoying, isn’t it? But why does this happen?
It’s pretty simple, really. Through technological communication (including the kind where you’re in the physical presence of one person while texting with another), we lose the nuances of human interaction.
I don’t much care about the debate about the famous studies by Albert Mehrabian about percentage breakdowns in the importance of nonverbal communication vs verbal, nor the debunking of those.
Chiefly because although human interaction can be studied, quantifying it leaves room for far too much error. Communication just can’t really be broken down into a numbers’ game.
But intuitively, we know this pretty well—if somebody’s playing on her smart phone when you’re trying to have a discussion, pretty much all the communication gets lost.
Because after all, meaningful conversations include not just words, but expressions, body language, whether the person’s gestures and words and all of the above match what he says.
Isn’t it interesting when someone smiles with his lips but that smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes . . .
Work with animals will show you the truth of this better than anything I know. I do a lot with my dogs. I know—not a news flash! And I once trained and showed horses as well.
Boy, do you ever glean a lot doing that.
And one of the most enlightening things I learned so long ago is that these animals que off your body language most of all. Very little while working with them is about words.
We think we’re teaching our dogs to do things based on verbal commands. But that’s a tiny drop in the water trough. Dogs key off our bodies. Off our signals to them—intended or not. And then they learn to put the words with the physical prompts.
Okay, so of course, people obviously aren’t dogs. But can’t you tell when someone’s not really listening to you? Eyes averted. Talking about something quite off-topic from what you were just saying. Body turned just slightly away.
Because the other ingredient for having a conversation that matters is being invested in what the other person is trying to communicate. Which comes down to asking meaningful questions.
The kind of questions to make sure you understand what she is saying in the first place, and then go another step further.
“Oh, so you think your mother doesn’t respect your boyfriend? Can you give me an example of that? Could she have meant that as something else? Maybe she didn’t know how to express what she felt.”
We all know the benefits of active listening, no? And doesn’t that just make the communication so much richer?
People want to be heard. To be understood. It’s basic to the core of being human.
You know that, right? How often have you really listened to someone, truly heard what she was saying, and she expresses how much better she then feels?
So often—with women, especially—we don’t want something fixed through a conversation. We want to talk it out with someone who really listens to us. Hears our plight. Shows some empathy.
And I know of no better way to express empathy than to truly care enough to listen to what’s on another’s mind.
Human connection is often nebulous. I blame the English language about half the time! It’s such a rudimentary way of communicating.
True connection takes a dissection when conversing, of what the other person actually thinks, feels, and means. Different words mean different things to people.
I’m still a lover of porches and swings, of sitting outside with a dear friend and just talking—slowly, at length, no timetable. No smart phones. I just had the most fabulous few weeks of doing so, with one close friend and another I just made.
And funny thing—the more I listen, the more it enriches me.
As Henry David Thoreau said, “It takes two to speak the truth—one to speak and another to hear.”
How do you have meaningful conversations in this day of hyper-connection?