Monday, January 5, 2015

Manners Monday - #DareToBePolite - Communication: Breakdown or Breakthrough?

January marks the final month of our #DareToBePolite campaign with a close examination on communication. Long gone are the days of face-to-face conversations, having a tête-à-tête on the telephone, or sending one’s heartfelt thoughts in writing on card stock through snail mail. Who would’ve known that in 2015 smartphones would take over our lives and texting would become the premiere mode of engagement? With kids basically spearheading the movement, adults have closely followed suit and practically everyone is tapping away at lightning speed everything from making a plan and hashing out an altercation to posting a photograph or saying thank you. And we wonder why are lives are littered with communication breakdowns?  It is virtually impossible to convey your feelings, philosophies and tirades on a tiny tablet. We need more space and we need more personal interaction.  While one could argue that technology has enhanced our ability to connect, it has simultaneously drawn us more apart than ever.  As a nation and as a world, we are suffering from lack of contact.

For the next several weeks we will be studying communication and surveying where we fall short to determine what needs improvement and which skills to hone. The purpose of this 21-day practice is to become more mindful in all forms of communication, to halt further breakdowns and promote a few breakthroughs. If nothing else, this should increase awareness and responsibility for what you say whether in the written or spoken form. If you need validation from the outside, just look at the recent Sony debacle as an example of what not to do. Never put anything in writing, in jest or otherwise, that could potentially come back to haunt you. This example is one excellent reason for going old school and conversing in person. At least this way your words are not permanently on record. Unless, of course, you are someone with a high profile like Donald Sterling and your mistress has you on wiretap.  It is well obvious that no conversation is truly private anymore. You have to be highly cautious of who you speak to and ultra-selective with your choice of words.  You might even do yourself a favor and watch an episode of “Downton Abbey” as an excellent exercise in restraint. Their words are few, but potent and always eloquently conveyed even if bitterly cunning.   

Step 3/Week 1: Communication: Have a face to face.  For the next seven days we encourage you to ditch your phone in favor of getting in front of people.  Make a plan to meet for a meal. Schedule an outing for a walk in the park. Arrange a visit with someone you’ve lost touch with. When you’re in their presence, be fully present, not multi-tasking.  Study their features, notice their mannerisms, listen to their tone of voice, check out their body language.  These are all subtle cues and clues that will help you with your interpersonal interaction. At the same time, explore your own.  What are you saying with your body? Are your facial expressions revealing a greater story than the words coming out of your mouth?  Are you brusque and habitually say the wrong thing or do you process each thought before saying it? Do you keep yourself guarded or do you willingly disclose personal details? Share with us what you observe in yourself and in others. Join us now! Make the vow to #daretobepolite!  

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