In March 2013 I wrote an entry entitled Communication Breakdown in which I addressed problems with communicating intentions and improving listening skills. Today I want to tackle another aspect of our communication breakdown, that of rapid fire communication.
Did you know that hihowareyou is not all one word? I find myself increasingly irritated at how many people ramble that phrase at me, whether on the phone or person, all the while not really listening or even caring about my answer. Hi How Are You has become a staple greeting for so many people that it has lost its meaning.
Many of my friends know that I almost never answer that question when they call me and lead with it. I in turn never ask them that question when I call. I prefer more specific questions – ones that hopefully indicate I truly care about what I’m inquiring over. “How are you feeling today,” or “what’s new in your world?”
Raise your hand if you have answered How Are You with a “good” even when you’re not. Now I ask you, what is the point of this greeting if the result is meaningless and the answer isn’t true. I also cringe every time someone on the phone says “good, thanks” when not only haven’t I responded to their howareya query, but specifically have NOT asked them how they are in return. They simply answer out of robotic routine moving obliviously into the reason for their call.
The bottom line here is that we are not truly communicating (speaking with intent and listening). Another problem in current communication skills is the intrusion of technology. I continually marvel (disappointedly) at how many couples, families, teenagers sit oblivious to each other, engaged almost exclusively with their phones. Questions are asked and answered with little eye contact. Meals are conducted with televisions on, car rides have the radios blaring, everyone lost in their own private worlds.
Despite the evidence that texting, Instagraming and Facebook check-ins is keeping us in touch with our friends and family in a more consistent manner than ever before, this lack of personal one-on-one communication is decreasing our ability to conduct meaningful or intimate connections.
Society has decided that it’s less intrusive, and therefore more considerate to text someone rather than call them. I disagree. A quick I’m on my way text is fine, but entire conversations or negotiating complicated plans – what’s wrong with actually talking? We’ve also turned phrases that were formerly used as proper social greeting manners into throw-away comments –like hihowyadoin, and straight-forward conversations seem to be more dialogues of double-talk these days.
So what does this teach our current and future generations? I fear more for what it does not teach. The ability to conduct oneself articulately and tactfully. To get your feelings or desires across quickly, succinctly and compassionately. More importantly, that a person can be comfortable with personal and meaningful interactions with family, friends, and co-workers alike.
Likely many of you, especially those in generations below mine (I’m a baby-boomer afer all) disagree with my assessment of current communication and that’s okay. But before you scoff, see how many times you or those around you say hihowareyou and more importantly, how much you or they even listen to or acknowledge the response. If you find my perspective to hold a little more weight, then perhaps you will find room for improvement in your communication skills. Then pay it forward and perhaps our communication breakdowns will lessen.