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From the Communications Chair

Facebook, Nextdoor, Snap Chat, Twitter, text, stream, facebook live, chat rooms, Instagram

All pathways to voice our opinions, complaints, and show the world who we are and every thought in our head. We shout our opinions about others’ opinions, news feeds, rumors, and innuendos. We pick fights, scream our anger, and bully others with posts and threats of actions. What we get back is instant feedback, and not always what we want to face.

Years ago, in a city far away, I studied marketing and communications. We really did not have many pathways to communicate. We could write letters, but that was a slow process. By the time someone got around to writing us back, we forgot what we were writing about. There was also posting personals in a newspaper or taking out an ad in local newspapers. But the tools were not available to gain that feedback we so desperately craved to determine if our message was effectively received. So we picked up this device that was tethered to a wall socket called a phone. On this phone, we established a conversation. That’s where we took turns, one party talking and the other listening.

There were many topics we covered in the conversation. Some we agreed on, some we did not. But the purpose of each conversation was to work out our differences, get our questions answered, and plan our next steps. It was a personal means of communication not open to the world for critique or input. It wasn’t perfect but friendships were forged, disagreements settled (for the most part) and the lines of communication opened. There were many times the conversation was argumentative, however interpersonal conversations had certain decorum. Name-calling was considered immature, screaming over the other was rude, and hanging up on someone was the ultimate insult. And if you told someone what the other did or said, well, it was your word against his or hers forcing the infamous and frightening face-to-face confrontation.

Sometimes we used the phone to convey bad news. That was tough, but to be there for someone in tough times built character. As a sales rep there were many times I had to answer an irate customer’s problems or complaints. But with using proper communication, language skills like apologizing and asking what can we do to right the problem, we solidified client relationships. It was amazing how saying those three words, “I am sorry,” fixed so many problems. One other thing the ancient telephone did was confine the workday to 9 to 5, five days a week. Yes, that was the dark ages when our news was printed on paper and broadcast only from 10:00 – 10:30 nightly. But those are stories for another time.

Today our high speed and mobile communication devices offer us much more freedom and flexibility We no longer have to be positioned by the phone to communicate, we can be anywhere in the world and the other party only knows our location if we disclose it. We no longer have to actually talk or listen; we can exchange texts to avoid that agony of actually having to face the adverse reaction our texts evoke. In fact, we don’t even have to write out our thoughts anymore, we have emojis and memes that express how we really feel. I guess we have finally adopted Confucius’ philosophy “A picture is worth 1,000 words”. If we do not like the response we receive, we simply block the person. It’s as simple as one touch. But does that really solve anything? Or did the dark ages have a point that is lost, work your differences out personally. I don’t miss the tethered phone, but I do miss some of the conversations I had.

So this is my goal for 2018. Before I post, tweet, text, email, Instagram, or chat, I am going to take a deep breath, think about what I want to say and think about the person or audience I want to reach. I will think about what my real goal is in communicating, how I want the world to think of me and what the feedback would be. And, if I have an issue with someone, I’m going to initiate the conversation with at least FB private messenger – (Hey I’m old, not antiquated) – instead of airing my personal grievance to the world. My guess is that will cut down my inane comments by at least half and hopefully make me a better communicator.