My adult children communicate by using text messages through their smart phones. I’ll receive a typical text: “Hi Mom. Can you watch the kids this afternoon?”
I want to respond: “I was in labor for 22 hours with you and gave up my career to raise you. You can at least call me.”
But, I text back, “Yes. When?”
Our contact has been reduced to single words that fit onto a tiny screen.
Unless you live in an isolated cave in the wilderness, you need to communicate with others. You may be tempted to find a remote escape, but you’ll still need to talk to someone to help arrange your solo endeavor. After you finally arrive, how do you send out for pizza?
A few intrepid hermits have mastered the ability to avoid human discourse, but I suspect they talk to the animals. Who am I to judge? Animals don’t post personal insults on social media to mingle with billions of messages swirling around cyberspace.
For those of us over 60, communication has evolved from friendly hollering to neighbors over the fence to creating emails and posts that can be distributed over the Internet to the entire world wide web.
I long for the good old days of authentic personal communication when we didn’t need to guess if someone was being sarcastic, humorous or serious.
In my opinion, we’re in danger of losing the wonderful, enriching art of communication. While going through a checkout counter or interacting with others in public, it’s often difficult to make eye contact with another person.
That important connection validates that we are alive, present and important. If the other person doesn’t look at us, it’s even more difficult to interact.
As a woman over 60, I’m aware of being invisible to others, but I refuse to quietly fade away. If I’m conversing with someone who doesn’t look at me, I’ll stop and wait. I can take a hint and leave if the person refuses to engage.
Here are some tips for effective communication.
You may be sharing a recipe, asking for directions, describing your favorite political candidate or explaining how to change a tire. Trust your knowledge in your topic or learn more about the facts before you communicate with others.
Social media is full of critical comments and exaggerated opinions that distort the facts and alienate potential readers. In a face-to-face conversation, make sure you can define and defend what you want to say.
Many people have lost or never learned the ability to listen as another person is speaking because they are too busy formulating their next response. Effective communication involves more than sparing with words.
Why is the other person upset? What are they really saying? Can you understand their opinion? Can you genuinely be happy for someone’s good news and not be jealous? If people can’t hear what another person is trying to say, everyone will walk away and resort to text messaging with robots.
I have a tendency to use humor or sarcasm, and that doesn’t always work in a conversation with someone who doesn’t know me. I need to adjust my presentation before I bring out the clown nose and farm jokes.
Body language can hinder effective communication, too, if a person crosses arms and leans away from a discussion.
Vulgar language doesn’t impress many people. There is a popular cartoon that reads, “Profanity is no substitute for wit.” I believe people who communicate using expletives every other word are cursed.
Being with friends can be a rewarding experience when everyone is sharing stories and laughing together. The physical presence of engaging with another person can enrich our lives.
During the last years of my mother’s life she was lost in dementia, but she still craved someone to talk with, even if she told the same stories over and over. If you want to practice the art of communication, visit an assisted living facility and start talking with someone.
We can revive the lost art of communication if we try to reconnect with people. Believe in your opinion, respect others, practice how to converse and enjoy the process. I want my grandchildren to be able to look at me and tell a story. I also don’t want to read it through a text message.
Have you struggled with interpersonal communication with someone? How did you handle the dilemma? Do you find it difficult to learn new technology for communicating? What are your suggestions for those over 60 who want to learn without being intimidated? Can you share a fun memory of a delightful conversation? Please use the comment box below.