Communicating in the Age of Technology (James 1:19-22)
In James 1:19 we are admonished to “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” This is good advice for people who want to be effective communicators. But this verse was intended as guidance for face-to-face communication. Unfortunately, much of what passes for communication these days consists of text messages, emails, and brief blurbs on Facebook or Twitter rather than old-fashioned in-person conversation.
Are these widely-used and popular forms of electronic “communication” really communication? Can you really convey what is in your heart using emoticons and emojis? Frankly, there are times when electronic “communication” just won’t suffice. This is because real communication involves much more than just words. Without visual access to human emotions it is difficult to communicate effectively, and human emotions cannot be adequately conveyed by electronic symbols.
There are times when we need the spontaneity, warmth, and empathy that can come only from an in-person, face-to-face conversation. There are times when the only way to fully express what we are thinking and feeling is in-person. But I fear electronic “communication” may be robbing of us of our ability to communicate in-person and face-to-face. Don’t let this happen to you.
Electronic “communication” is fast and convenient, making it an excellent way to stay in touch and convey information. These welcome characteristics give it a valid place in the overall pantheon of communication methods. But communication is about more than just staying in touch and conveying information. Real communication also conveys feelings, emotions, hopes, fears, empathy, sympathy, frustration, enthusiasm, anger, trust, mistrust, sincerity, insincerity, and a host of other human factors. What is missing from electronic “communication” are the non-verbal cues that make up more than fifty percent of the messages conveyed in a conversation.
One of the reasons parents tell their children to “look at me when I am talking to you” is the eyes and other non-verbal cues often convey more information than words. This is why even talking on the telephone cannot equal the effectiveness of face-to-face conversation. This is why a smile and a firm handshake can convey more information than a string of text messages. If you find your communication skills slipping because of technology, here are a few hints that will help you regain the ability to sit down with another person and communicate effectively:
Look directly at the person you are speaking to.
Listen more and talk less.
Listen with your eyes, experience, and intuition as well as your ears. Do the non-verbal cues given off by the other individual match what is said verbally?
Talk less about yourself—ask questions about the other person.
Let your emotions show—don’t hide them.
Be considerate—don’t interrupt.
Be patient—people sometimes need time to formulate what they want to say. Don’t rush other people or “rescue” them by finishing their sentence for them.
If you want to convince the other person of the validity of your idea, plan, or opinion, be enthusiastic about it. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm.
Use electronic “communication” to stay in touch, but to get in touch try good, old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press.