June 09, 2010

Communication Breakdown

Ah, the joys of parenting, so many different things to be concerned with. And you thought that all you needed to do was try to keep your daughters from getting pregnant and your sons from impregnating those girls. If only it were that simple.

As a father I spend a lot of time thinking about my children and what sort of things I need to do to help them grow up. If the goal is to help them become well adjusted and productive members of society what can I do to help smooth the path.

There are some obvious answers to this such as helping them to receive a good education, work ethic etc. But there is one area in particular that I think has become even more important than ever before, communication. It is more important because our methods of communicating with others are evolving.

Effective communication is so very important because it sets the tone for our interactions with other people, especially now when so many of us have an electronic tether that beeps and whistles at us. If you read the studies they show that text has become our primary mode of speaking with others.  Instead of reaching out to touch someone it is becoming far more common to reach out and click someone.

From a bird's eye perspective it wouldn't seem to be problematic, but the reality is that there are a number of challenges that are presented by text communication that do not exist in verbal settings. The lack of verbal clues, no inflection or facial/body gestures provides an atmosphere which is rife for misunderstanding.

The warmth of a smile sometimes mitigates or softens words that sound harsh. Things that are not meant  sarcastically are easily misunderstood. The end result is that it is very easy to accidentally offend or upset people. Sometimes the consequences of these misunderstandings can be far more costly than we would like.

In addition to these issues there are two other potential challenges that exist. Email is viral. In a matter of moments it can be disseminated throughout the world reaching millions of people. Point and click on send and that message can be headed for inboxes of people who choose to save it forever on their servers and or print out endless copies.

But let's step back for a moment and think again about words, our intentions and our understanding of what we read. It is of particular interest to me because I have had more than one occasion in which I have found myself engaged in discussions about why I or someone else wrote something. Silly arguments in which we discovered that poor choices of words had created needless confusion.

So I suppose that it is fair to say that in addition to teaching my children to craft their communications carefully I am going to make an extra effort to do the same.

2 comments:

Christine LaRocque said...

So very conscious of this, interestingly as my children are only starting to learn to communicate. I come from a family where communication was never much appreciated and it's affected me in ways I can't go into here. The point is, our children should know how to really communicate when embarking in the world. They should be able to filter the real from the perceived and develop a joy for exploring their thoughts and emotions with people they can trust. Interesting and thought-provoking post Jack.

The JackB said...

It is very important to me so I really want them to excel at communicating with others. Makes a huge difference.