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TFL 008 150 150 Ben Coker

Communications Breakdown

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”

What we have here is a failure to communicate” – Rod Steiger to Sidney Poitier in the 1967 movie ‘In the Heat of the Night’.

It is said we live in the ‘communication age’ – well, we may be in an ‘information age’ but there’s not a great deal of communication going on. It’s more of a ‘Tower of Babel’ situation. It seems everyone is talking at once and not many are listening, really listening. The late Steve Shapiro, a sales coach and speaker, described the two magic words in selling as “ask – listen” (and then repeat) and he was absolutely right.

Most people believe in order to make their mark in the world, to be noticed, to be someone, to make money, is to keep up a constant barrage of presenting who they are and what they do, usually through so-called ‘social’ media but also by talking a lot.

The trouble is communication, conversation, advertising and publicity and even ‘news’ don’t ‘work’ unless someone is listening rather than just waiting to say what they want to say.

Despite, or probably because of all the ‘communications channels’ and opportunities to ‘say our piece’ the sad truth is very people are listening to what anyone has to say.

People even get ‘upset’ or ‘offended’ when they receive e-mails and phone calls, and I’m not talking about ‘spam’ here. Calls and emails are often regarded as an intrusion or interruption. It may be just me but on average four out of five calls or emails go unanswered, and these are to friends, family and people who have either asked me to call or are expecting a call from me, we’re not talking about strangers here. It’s incredibly frustrating and just holds everything up.

It’s not just about talking, it’s about video, written words and the whole plethora of electronic communication. While people will ‘like’ on social media posts they rarely engage and while we may have hundreds or thousands of ‘followers’ or ‘friends’ we don’t really know who they really are; to put it bluntly most of them are completely meaningless to us.

Some people do know how to make it work and are very good at communicating on social media but it takes a lot of time and concentration and those who can do it (or perhaps pay someone to do it for them) are definitely exceptions to the ‘rule’.

While there is still much interpersonal connection in real life outside the realm of technology (I’ve had two interactions while I’ve been writing this in the pub), once we get in front of a screen it all falls apart. People start on about random and meaningless topics, mainly based around ‘look at me’. They broadcast their opinions, views and beliefs and expect (or do they?) some sort of response.

It’s occurred to me this may be turning into a bit of a rant, in which case I’m guilty of the same thing, but it points up something important which we, as humanity, have had a problem with for millennia.

We, you and I, want, and more importantly, need to be heard. Why? Because we want, desperately, to contribute in some way to humanity. We want to ‘make our mark’ or at least give our ‘take’ on whatever is going on around us.

Our ‘take on it’ whatever ‘it’ is, is unique to us, to you and I, and very few, if any, people have the same opinion about anything provided of course they haven’t given up their own personal intelligence to some variant of dogma.

So what can we, you and I, do to make some inroad into reversing, or at least amending, this trend?

My ‘take on it’ is to get back to the village. Instead of seeking out vast numbers of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ just focus on a few hundred like minded people. ‘your’ little group and ‘my’ little group can thus be linked to create a network, not a mass, of people who are talking and listening to each other. This is how human intelligence grows and evolves, not as an amorphous mass talking at each other but as groups of people really interact with each other.

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