Who was That?
Communication is a funny thing. Back in the day folks had their drums, smoke signals, bards, and jongleurs followed by books, letters, and official documents. Then the telegraph, radio, telephone, television and finally the computer. All along I am sure that parents had a difficult time with their kids. Just imagine the hunter-gatherer families. “Quit banging on that drum! You have hunting class tomorrow,” or when parents had nothing tangible to take away – “Kids are to be seen and not heard!
Just last week, my teen got in a spot of trouble and my first response was to remove her communication device. Her connection to unsavory influences. She was upset and I informed her that even if she had a telegraph machine in her room, I would have taken that as well. Communication is a given, but the devices often make parents pull their hair out.
It does not take much research to see how people misuse communication devices. For some, the phone and iPad is a replacement granny, babysitter, and educator. Small children are handed a communication device that is basically a portal to the world and are expected to monitor themselves. Couples no longer talk about their future, their hopes and dreams. Instead they text endlessly about inane things that have nothing to do with forming a lasting relationship or becoming a responsible adult. Families sit in the same room sending hundreds of texts but won’t talk to each other.
While I am thankful for the devices I have, I also am a throwback to the days of oral language. Talking. Visiting. Being interested in others through verbal and non-verbal communication. That means smiling, nodding, making gestures as I speak and listen. Unfortunately, many young adults, teens, tweens, or pre-teens are no longer adept at oral language. Not even the shallow courtesy kind of language that makes one’s day brighter.
There are many reasons to be aware of dangers but have we forgotten how much power a simple smile packs? What about a nod to acknowledge someone’s presence? One of my biggest pet peeves is to walk up to a counter for help. Two or three young people are behind the counter discussing their evening. I can hear them but no one will make eye contact, nod, or talk. It is as if I am invisible. Finally, one will raise from their chair, phone in hand, and act like I am some kind of intruder. We used to smile and say, “Can I help you.”
Really, courtesy language is so simple. Look up and talk. That’s all there is to it.
Recently I was out shopping with my teen and we made some purchases in a retail shop. As the young man rang up my purchases, we began to talk. The teen continued to browse. Eventually she came over to the counter and stood politely by. The young man and I discussed his MBA, the lack of jobs, paying back school loans, where he went to church, where his parents went to church, where all he had lived in his short life, and where he wanted to work when he got his “real” job. We finished our transaction, I thanked him and wished him good luck.
As we were walking out my daughter asked, “How did you know that guy?”
I replied, “I didn’t.”
She gasped, “You didn’t? He wasn’t a former student of yours?”
I shook my head, “Nope, we just got to talking.”
“And you didn’t even know him?”
I smiled and said, “No, I was just being friendly.”
“Ohhh Mooooommm. I didn’t interrupt because I thought you knew him.”
I told her that nothing replaces the effectiveness of face to face communication. That is how we learn to be human and humans are interesting. Besides, we all need to take the time to be gracious and kind to others just like I was to the young sales clerk.
I didn’t charge him a single dime for all of the advice I dispensed while checking out. Can’t beat a deal like that.