With the development of computers and email, iPhones and text messaging and even instant messaging and twittering, we’ve become a society that has very real problems in face-to-face conversation. I’ve never really thought of communication as an “art” but perhaps since it is something we are losing from lack of use, it might be an apt description!
Body language in conversation can have an impact on how what we’ve said is received. But when we do all our communication via electronics, we can’t see any facial expressions, body gestures or hear the tone of voice, that give us a clue to how we are really being perceived, understood or even accepted. Likewise, they can’t see ours or hear any inflection in our voice, which also can change the meaning of what is being said! We have to wait for a return comment, email, or text. But when we are face to face we are much more aware of another person’s body language.
As a non-traditional student in college, it was interesting to watch the young people interact with each other. But I guess it didn't occur to me they were watching me, as well! In one of my communications classes, we were instructed at the beginning of the term, to share with others in our groups of ten, what we thought we knew about each person given the limited amount of time and interaction we had with each other. I was surprised with several of the comments from the young people about me! One said, “a great cook,” while another said, “someone who bakes great cookies!” The one that surprised me the most, however, was when a young man who I’d only had minimal contact with and only in that classroom said, “Margie was prom queen!” I haven’t a clue what I inferred through limited conversation or body language that would make him say that, but suffice it to say, while I was flattered, I was also totally surprised!
When talking with someone, do you pay attention to what they don’t say as well as, what they do? Facial expressions can often share more about a person’s feelings than their words. Their eyes may be expressing anger, confusion, happiness or frustration! Are they focused, friendly or in a hurry? Each of these indications will (or at least should) help you determine how you will react or respond to any given situation or conversation when communicating.
I wonder, though, in a world of excessive social media madness about the person who will interrupt a conversation to check his phone, post a comment, take a call, check email or sometimes to even play a game! Is this good communication? I suggest it is not. I consider it rude and inconsiderate, but also the “nature of the beast.” Sadly, with each new generation comes another social media phenomenon and will likely continue to degenerate the God-give ability to communicate genuinely and productively in a face-to- face conversation.
So I challenge you to really attempt to have one on one conversation this week without an iPhone or any other electronic device at your immediate disposal. Watch, listen and then respond. You might be pleasantly surprised with the results!