Is Your Ability to Communicate Getting Better? Or Worse?March 11th, 2016 |
In 1888 a baby boy was born to a poor farmer and his wife in Maryville, Missouri. Growing up with only cows and sheep to communicate with, he didn’t have much practice getting along with people and he developed an inferiority complex. The pain drove this young man to take a job where he would have more interaction with human beings. He went into sales—peddling bacon, soap and lard for a Chicago meatpacking company. During these years the young man identified something hardly anyone thought of as a quality that could be learned. He was thrilled with his discovery and carefully honed his what he called skill with “human engineering.” We now call it interpersonal or social skills and his name was Dale Carnegie.
Little by this young man learned that a silver tongue could be more useful than a silver spoon in winning friends, influencing people, gaining wealth and acquiring fame. In 1936 he put he put his findings into a book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It was an instant success and continues to be a best seller right up until today.
Why? Because his ideas were solid. Basically it is “Begin in a friendly manner. Become genuinely interested in other people. Smile. Have a good handshake and direct eye contact. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking and be a good listener. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest. Dramatize your ideas. The list goes on. It’s good stuff, very good stuff. It’s as true today as it was then.
But then something happened. About 50 years after Dale Carnegie’s landmark book, the medium in which human beings communicated with each other started to change. At first the evolution was slow. Some of us remember early emails when we’d d start with “Dear so-and-so,” and end with something friendly like the old now-practically-extinct social letters did. “Sincerely yours,” “Kind regards,” and “Yours truly” were especially popular. Those became “By for now” or “Later,” both of which area superfluous now.
Then, like a jet gathering speed on the runway the changes took off faster and faster and continue to evolve at supersonic speed. We communicated by quick texts which became shorter and shorter evolving into partial sentences, little punctuation, abbreviated words and replaced articulated emotions with strings of standardized emojis. At first it was just smiley face and frowney face which quickly expanded into funny faces to replace words like “angry,” “anxious,” “apologetic,” angry” “agonized” and so on through the alphabet of every conceivable emotion. It didn’t stop there and it was obvious we were on the verge of a culture where words were becoming obsolete
Even one on one communicating between friends dwindled and we just posted social updates about our lives for one and all to read. An incredible amount of apps became the medium, each with fewer and fewer words. And that’s just the beginning.
Hmm, are we regressing? Not technologically to be sure, but in our ability to communicate? A newborn baby first recognizes pictures and drawings, then learns words., graduates to whole sentences, and finally is able to write in paragraphs and theses to express sophisticated concepts and emotions. Are we going in the opposite direction now? Do you feel more comfortable communicating live with people now? Or less? It's worth asking yourself that.