Growing up, my mother emphasized being able to communicate. She encouraged me to speak during class, and to take great pride in my ability to write. If you review the annals of history, you will find some of the most impactful figures were great communicators. That is not a coincidence. Nowadays, however, it seems that we, as a society, have lost the reverence for effective communication skills. People seem to be in too much of a hurry to effectively communicate. This failure to communicate, or lack of ability to do so, has been manifested in many ways.
I do not know if it is just me, but it seems that more and more people are socially awkward. I am talking about standing by the punch bowl all night during a party socially awkward. People truly have moved away from holding meaningful conversations. I have also noticed that people do not take the time to effectively communicate in written form, either. When I was coming of age, short-hand communication was used sparingly. Nowadays, it feels that “lol,” and other short-hand abbreviations have truly become the norm. How can we get back to the basics? This past weekend, as I sat at a pool, I looked around and noticed people sitting in groups, but not engaging with each other at all. I even noticed couples who were not engaging with each other. Instead, they were too busy scrolling their Facebook, or Instagram timelines, or taking selfies. How did we get here? Is this inability to communicate contributing to failed relationships?
Growing up, you had to engage in conversations with people because social media did not exist. If you gathered the nerve to approach a young lady, you had to think about: (1) what you would say to her, and (2) how you would eventually get around to asking for her telephone, or beeper number. Not only did you have that stress, but you also had to consider what you would say to her on the telephone if and when you received her number. This was stressful, but we did it. The kids these days will never know the stress we dealt with! Now, they can send a text message, or a direct message on Instagram. These applications—while very convenient—contribute to a generation of bad communicators.
Surprisingly, the inability to communicate has spilled over to the professional world as well. In my line of work, I often attend professional networking events, or conferences where people are actively searching for viable business connections. Too often what I see is people who literally do not know how to start a conversation, or people who cannot hold a conversation. If I were a betting man, I would bet money that people have missed golden business opportunities because they could not hold a conversation. This is pretty sad and very unfortunate. This is also the reality in many places.
I have also noticed that many people cannot effectively communicate in written form, or are in too big of a hurry to do so. Either way, it is pretty frustrating. I have always enjoyed reading good prose. I respect writers who tell a story or analyze a complex topic in a very simple written form. Although I realize that not everyone is a trained writer, it can be exasperating to talk to someone who abbreviates every word. At times, it is appropriate to type “lol” or “smh.” However, defaulting to this kind of communicating can be very misleading. I have seen statuses on Facebook and other social media platforms that are so poorly written that you literally are confused as to what message the person was trying to relay. When I read some of these statuses, I immediately think about my elementary school teachers who made students diagram sentences. I wonder if students are still required to do so? Either way, grammatically incorrect statuses, have seemingly become the rule—not the exception. Maybe they do not care because the President is a terrible communicator. If he is the leader of the free world and does not care about communication, why should they? I digress.
Bad writing has even permeated the professional world. Too many times, I have received emails from business professionals that are riddled with grammatical errors. In the professional world, people often will judge you by the written product you present to them. In many cases, they have never met you in person, so their first impression of you is the email you send to them. Some professionals are more likely to forgive grammatical errors. Others, on the other hand, will completely write a person off for failure to proofread an email. I believe in setting the tone early in a personal or business relationship. That said, I definitely believe in taking an appropriate amount of time to proofread documents.
Maybe I am old school in my thinking, but I hope our society places more of an emphasis on effective communication as we move forward.