"It's so funny how we don't talk anymore,
It's so funny why we don't talk anymore." -- Cliff Richard, We Don't Talk Anymore
Something has gone wrong. Very wrong. And we have to fix it.
We simply do not talk anymore. We text. We email. We post on Facebook. We tweet on Twitter. And it is destroying our ability to effectively communicate in our work relationships, in our marriages, in our dating life, in our relationships with our friends, kids, nieces and nephews, with our parents, and our siblings.
We shout at the world loudly now without ever speaking a word.
We vent without ever having spoken to a person, or picked up the phone.
We are cowards now. Cowards all. We simply prefer to be anonymous, and we have managed to figure out how after thousands of years as a human species to avoid the precious and priceless art of conversation. And conversations must never be confused with communication. They are very different.
Some of you are scratching your heads and wondering: What is she talking about? I communicate just fine. I send texts, I DM, IM, email, tweet, post videos and photos on Instagram. Nobody talks anymore. That is for old folks. It's quicker this way. More efficient. Oh yes, we are all efficient now. On that we do not disagree. But are we effective?
The answer is a resounding NO. I hear it all the time from men and women alike over the age of 35. We are all frustrated with the culture of "cut off." The culture of "hiding" and "cyber bullying." Nobody talks anymore. Nobody listens anymore. We have allowed these gadgets, phones, and devices to ruin our ability to be intimate, vulnerable and connected as people. The gadgets own us, not the other way around. This age of "social media connection" is causing division in families, in churches, in marriages and friendships.
A few examples from my own life and from what I have heard consistently over the past six months or so from friends, neighbors and colleagues:
1. In dating, texting has replaced courting. Men no longer have to call women or meet them in person. They ask you out by text. Tell you where to meet them, or worse. Men do most of their pre-date assessment through texts. I had a younger man (he was in his late 30s) who was interested in dating me recently get frustrated because I refused to date by text. He actually suggested we only speak by phone once a week and communicate by text every day. When I told him politely, "No thanks. I'll pass." He called me utterly confused as to what he had done wrong. I laughed out loud. Because he really didn't know. I chalk it up to our age difference, but women friends of all ages tell me this is quite common now. Men love texting because they really don't like talking. Women have in many cases bowed to the social dating pressure of texting for the most part to suit men.
Worse than that, I can't tell you how many men friends have told me about the "disconnect" between them and women once they finally meet in person. One young man of 35 told me recently, "I like women better when we are texting. They seem so different. But when we go on a date, something is missing. We both sit there with nothing to say. We have such great conversations on text." Really? Hmmmm. I don't think so. Texting is not talking. Conversation is verbal, spoken, audible words folks. That is the problem right there. Conversation requires effort, connection, listening and speaking.
2. In the workplace people send reply to all emails. Put colleagues on blast. We have meetings now by audio, video and teleconferences. We work from home. We work from remote places. We never have to see a person anymore. We can get performance reviews electronically. We can give someone a pink slip without ever having to talk to them. We can basically work with people on year long projects and never meet them. It's just where we are in our modern workplace culture.
3. On Facebook I heard of at least five stories in the past week where long-term friend or family members have stopped speaking over an angry post. Or, worse un-friending one another after destroying each other on social media. One of my neighbors was visibly shaken at the public attack that was launched against her and her parents by an angry in-law. It is simply jaw dropping what we are doing on social media now even to our own families. We have had it happen in our family. An angry aunt, who drinks a bit too much, went on Facebook and went "off." It was sad.
4. On Twitter (my vice of choice) I was literally on an unsolicited TEXT argument with three or four other women, when I heard my Twitter alerts go off. One of the women who was on the text chain ranting was tweeting in REAL-TIME about the dispute we were having privately via text. She was making snide, inappropriate comments. I was utterly speechless. And when I called her on it, she justified it because she wanted to do it. WOW! I will chalk it up to her youth and immaturity. She is under 30 years of age, and in her generation I guess all is fair in love and Twitter. But worse is when a grown person who is 50 takes to social media and justifies why she "cut someone off," caused an uproar on a group email, and could not have a private conversation with the person with whom she had ought (who she publicly hailed as a dear and beloved friend). This happens every day all day on social media. Relationships decimated because no-one could be an adult and pick up a phone. Or meet in person.
5. We avoid talking now as a form of punishment and banishment to those who have offended us. That is so immature. So unBiblical (if you are a Christian). So ridiculous. It is perfectly acceptable to have a time out and wait before engaging in challenging conversation. But to use silence as a weapon to wound is never the right path. When you (or I) avoid talking, we give room for people to draw their own conclusions with half facts, half truths, and bad information. Talking provides clarity. It also allows for apology, and for restoration.
Folks, I could go on and on and on all day with how we are ruining our relationships because we simply refuse to talk. I am concerned. My young nieces go into total meltdown mode if they have to engage in conversation or meaningful dialogue that does not include a device. I make them write thank you notes, letters and cards. The younger one loves to do it, but that teenager (oy vey). I understand that we live in a different age, but somethings are timeless and to be valued. Talking and having affirming, courageous, loving, challenging, refreshing, restorative conversations are critical to our well being as a species. We need the connection that can only come from conversation.
My rule, and I try never to break this ever, is that I will 1.) Pick up the phone at least twice to try and talk if there is a conflict of any kind. If my call is not returned. I will send an email or note asking to talk. If that is ignored, I have done my part. 2.) If I sub-tweet (meaning you don't name names but everyone in the know knows who you are talking about) it is only after I tried to talk woman to woman or man to man first. If I talk about it beyond that I will use my platform as a writer and columnist to try and teach others what I have learned. 3.) If I am wrong. I admit it quickly. And I will offer a sincere human to human apology if afforded that opportunity. It's just the right thing to do.
I want to end by saying this: When you talk things out, you build bridges. When you listen to people, see their eyes, hear their hearts, everybody wins. Even if you decide ultimately to not remain friends, or to be involved, all of us deserves to be heard. To not talk is to cheat yourself out of learning the truth of how someone feels, or what they need. In business, and in our professional lives the people who succeed have high emotional intelligence. They have empathy, patience, they listen, they ask questions and most importantly they receive feedback. They want to know how their people feel, think and operate on a very human level. It leads to greater connection, productivity and revenues.
We must rediscover how to TALK again. We have lost our way. We are all dying from neglect of our souls. The human soul must be watered to thrive. Conversation is how we share our deepest thoughts, needs, and desires one with another. The next time you are tempted to tweet, text, post on facebook, or send an email. Stop. Think. And pick up the phone, Skype or invite the person to coffee. Watch what begins to happen in your life as a result. Your relationships across the board will start to blossom, grow, and thrive!