Rhona Canoy .
SO… With all the tools for effective communication at our fingertips, the ability to communicate effectively seems to be taking the opposite direction. Blogs, vlogs, socmed statuses and rants, comments and reactions… all these things flood our sensibilities. And yet, what is being said? What is being expressed? What is being heard?
The ability to communicate comes with hard work. Let me say that at the starting gate. It comes with lots of reading, lots of writing, lots of speaking, lots of listening, lots of critical thinking. That’s a lot of work. And yet it is necessary if we want to be heard. This is where the weakness of our current educational system comes to light. For those of us privileged enough to have been schooled more than five decades ago, there is no comparison. Although we look closely at how our children and grandchildren are being trained, the resulting difference is obvious.
The ability to choose words with surgical precision, in order to express thoughts and emotions, has dulled. What with outcome and performance being higher on the learning priority list, people no longer read. Or, if they still do, mostly limit their menu to the internet and social media, or TV advertising, or tabloids which deal with celebrity lifestyles and occurrences. The sales of newspapers has certainly gone down. And even with excuses like “it’s all on the internet” being tossed around, the diminishing ability to express one’s self is still dismaying.
People hardly read now. Please don’t tell me you invest in ebooks. Those that do are certainly very few. And I can’t comment on the quality of reading material. Our professionals must, by necessity, keep reading. Doctors need to keep up with their stock knowledge. Lawyers need to know what the latest rulings are, as published in the SCRA. Accountants need to be abreast of the most recent tax laws. Sadly, the people who actually do need to read–the teachers and students–don’t.
Lessons and textbooks and lesson plans don’t count. Why? Because all they focus on are pieces of information necessary to score well on tests, or to be able to comply with course requirements. The activities needed to hone our ability to express ourselves well go much further than that. Without reading, our vocabulary remains limited. Without writing, what we read doesn’t really get used much. Without listening, our ability to speak and express ourselves orally will remain stunted. The parts of our brain that process reading and writing are not the same parts that process hearing and speaking. And if we don’t mix up these elements, they tend to stay localized.
Talking about what we read, discussing and arguing about them forces us to stay sharp and focused, rapidly processing our thoughts in order to be able to say them out loud. Writing about what we hear, analyzing and sorting through the aural information forces us to be organized and methodical in the way we write down our thoughts. Editing what we’ve written (odious but necessary) forces us to be more objective about how our thoughts flow as we write them down.
Everybody needs and wants to be heard. But just as important, everybody needs to know how to listen and to hear. Communication is never just a one-way process. We need to know how to give just as well as we take. Many times that’s how arguments and fights are born. The inability to make yourself be heard, the frustration one feels when we don’t know just how to say what we want to say–these things are skills which can be sharpened and expanded.
How I wish that we all paid enough attention to what our children are learning to do in school. Because that’s the best training ground for communication skills. We are now a culture of non-communicators or, worse, miscommunicators. We have lost our fascination for words, for how they evolved, for how they can be used in different ways, for how powerful they can be. And yet we are drowning in them. From our TV’s, from our gadgets, from the internet, from billboards, from traffic signs, from the couple seated next to us at the doctor’s waiting room who are talking a bit too loudly. For you who are reading my words at the moment. Drowning.
The gift of communication is bestowed upon all. But the gift of communicating well must be cultivated. And appreciated. How gratifying it is when one knows that the message has been conveyed and received well. How gratifying it is when one is not disappointed or flustered because words have not been chosen well, and presented even better. How gratifying it is when one understands what is being said, and can grasp the value of the message received.
So many of our problems could be addressed and discussed if our ability to communicate could serve us well. The Bee Gees once sang, “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.” Actually, words are what we need.