Friday, June 17, 2011

gracious considerations

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as we become more immersed in a culture of electronic devices, rapid communication technology, and reality culture,  i've noticed that some social niceties have been lost along the way. the use of personal electronic devices is becoming a nagging issue. it's just really rude. we're all being here now, and you're staring into your lap.*

 this collective mood around communication can be rather childish** and disrespectful. if you don't want to contribute to the pond poo, please take a moment and reflect on these five considerations for effective and gracious communication:

1) listening is a practice.
once, i heard a swami say, "the mind is like drunken monkey bit by scorpion." technology's inherently rapid pace only enhances the erratic nature of the drunken scorpion stung monkey mind. we have to practice soothing the monkey mind and listening can help. kids in kindergarten are totally like drunken, scorpion-stung monkeys. they have a hard time sitting still and listening because they haven't had much practice doing it.*** listening means really hearing what the other person says without your own agenda. thinking about what you are going to say when the other person is done speaking is not really listening. likewise, glancing at your handheld device when another person in your company is speaking is not listening either.

real time, face-to-face communication is greatly improved in making others feel heard. you should kind of repeat what they have said back to them. listen, process, repeat and then respond with your own thoughts. one of the most important steps in this process is checking for understanding. i know, y’know or any variation on knowing that doesn’t actually explain what it is that you do in fact know does not actually convey knowing.**** it does take more patience and time to communicate this way, but that is why we have to actively practice listening.

2) very personal favors require something personal.
personal favors warrant eye contact and/or a voice, so ask for a personal favor in person or call/leave a message. it’s ok to follow up with a text message after you make an effort to make the request personal. for example, “hola, i need to ask a favor. i need [money/help moving/letter of recommendation]. please call me." we're not talking about, "hey get me soy latte @strbux?" <== that would be ok to text.

3) gratitude goes a long way.
if someone has gone out of their way to assist you, then go out of your way a wee bit to acknowledge it.  when someone does you a solid, like loaning you money or helping you move or writing a letter of recommendation, then consider an expression of gratitude. ideally, a card is most gracious; bonus points for fruit. e-cards are kind okay, but a thoughtful, newsy email would be just as good. a text message of gratitude might be too breezy and informal to make a warm impression. 

4) don’t poop in the pond.*****
communication can make other people feel really good or really bad. if a simple gesture like a smile can brighten someone's day consider the mighty power of the internet as a tool of communication. use your powers for good and try to leave positive digital impressions. protest, raise hell, organize, critique—but don't leave a trail of negativity in your wake. you can pee in the pond, but don’t poop in it. if you can't use your words and inside voice to make your point (no name-calling), then you need to check yourself. on the flip side, try to stock the pond as well. don't be stingy with your praise. you never know what might blossom as the result of a teensy bit of encouragement; send a card, support what you enjoy, and plant good seeds.

5) mystery is interesting.
unless you're batman or wonder woman, you really don't need to be available at all times-- and you shouldn't expect others to be available at all times either. you don't need to update your status. you don't need to list all of your favorite quotes. you don't need to answer your phone after 10pm. go for a walk, play scrabble with your neighbors, take a nap, and keep some of those moments to yourself. this is also part of your listening practice: listen to the poetry of right now, and check yourself for understanding.

 *consider how some elected officials tweet in the house as our president delivers a state of the union address. what kind of an example are these elected officials providing to school children? if you don’t have to put your phone down for the president, then why should you put your phone down for the teacher? or dinner? or like, ever?

**as many middle and high school teachers will tell you, certain anthony weiner "communications" are very much on par with notes and drawings intercepted in class. it's embarassing, but it's not a big deal. it wasn't illegal, but it was childish and unbecoming behavior for an elected official. 

*** little kids are not known for their patient and nuanced understanding of time. consider, “are we there yet?”

****how do i know if you know what i mean if you don’t tell me what it is that you know? y’know?

***** special shout out to gran’ma stella for the tough-love, down-home country wisdom.

1 comment:

  1. you hit home for me. very good question, "if we don't have to put our phone down for the president so what makes you think we should put it down at the dinner table or for our teachers?" i don't know why, maybe because my generation has no home training, or my generation is so into what everyone else is doing they feel as they should be into it as well. Who knows but it is disrespectful and more of the reason behind my generation knowing nothing about politics, having no family time, or not having a decent amount of respect for our teachers today.