By: Dale Belluscio, LICSW
Greenwood Psychotherapy & Wellness Center
According to Psychology Today, in order to institute “effective communication” you must, “establish a shared meaning around words, constructs and ideas that are being discussed and then further that meaning in a
coherent flow of dialogue. Such a skill set enables relationships to thrive, businesses and organizations to be more productive and nations to create and sustain peace.”
However, as I continue to observe individuals interacting in restaurants, my reception area, my family members and almost everywhere I go, I do not seem to be able to find any example of effective communication
I witness people sitting down to share a meal and families not talking. It is not that there is some type of argument going on or some other family rift, . iIt is due to the fact that they are all heavily involved on their phones!! The food is served and yet there is still no real communication. No full discussion of what is happening in their lives or even how their day has gone. It is heads down, eyes glued to the screen of their devices.
You might think “this is no big deal!” But I will challenge you on that type of thinking. What will long term exposure to this type of behavior have on us as a society? What will this do to the next few generations as their communication skills continue to deteriorate? The same generations who will be the leaders of our world someday.
Good communication skills require practice. It includes the ability to debate and properly argue your point of view. You cannot receive these skills by using texts. You need to understand the complexities of body language and reading someone’s reaction to the words you are using. Again, not a skill that can be attained by writing words on a screen and sending them.
Some of my fondest memories as a young adult is debating, passionately my love of a local football team or a political point of view. Formulating my ideas before opening my mouth took a great deal of practice in order to have my opinion heard. It was a difficult process at first but one I learned to excel at with the proper amount of practice.
This is all being lost due to the technology that has infiltrated our lives. And it is having a huge impact on relationships. I am a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW). I am in private practice and have many years’ experience working with children, adults, families, and couples. A great deal of time and effort is used in couple and family session’s discussing miscommunications which have occurred due to texting. Huge argument and threats of ending the family have happened after someone receives a difficult message. What needs to be understood is the mindset of the person when receiving the message. If you are at work or anywhere and your mood is irritable and frazzled due to a rough day, then the response to the message will reflect that mood. You will read the text with a “filter” on and “hear” it through your negative mood. Therefore, it will be read with that bias. But maybe that was not the intent of the person sending you the message. You cannot hear sarcasm or “just kidding” through a text. Therefore you will get angry or upset over the words. But that is all they are is just words. The meaning or inflection you place on the words are your own and not that from the person sending them. Please do not fall into this trap. It will lead to hurt feelings, nasty responses and hurtful exchanges. If you wish to speak to a loved one, then call them. Isn’t it nicer to actually hear their voice and speak to them? At least any possible miscommunication can be resolved in the moment.
My suggestion to everyone is to work on managing the technology in our lives by “shutting down.” Make a rule amongst your family and friends. When you are spending time with them, shut off the devices. When you are out to dinner with your children or husband, leave the phones in the purses or in the car. Look across the table to the person with you, and talk. Share ideas, your day, and your life. Open yourself up to the person with you and develop your relationship. While you are doing that you will be helping the children develop their communication skills.
When I was a child the only time I had a phone in my hand was after it rang. Now everyone, me included, is obsessed with their phones. It is the only way people communicate and it has to stop. It must be managed better or it will not bode well for our future.