Monday, September 30, 2013

Reflections on communication

Much is written these days about the importance of communication and of being able to communicate regularly, properly and well. We live in a society that prioritizes communication in all its forms: regular mail, emails, text messages, telephone calls, instant messaging, multi-media sharing, TV, radio, newspapers, books, movies, internet, etc. There are so many ways to communicate as well as a huge emphasis on doing so. One need only walk down a city street or order a coffee in a local café to register that we as a society are connected to others on a nearly-constant basis. One is constantly bombarded with individuals talking into mouthpieces that one cannot see; I have wrongly assumed several times that I am being followed by a crazy person talking to himself or herself, until I realize that no, he or she is talking to another person on an otherwise hidden phone with an invisible headset. We have a plethora of ways to communicate and a plethora of devices with which to communicate, and yet, relationships between people on personal as well as global levels have not noticeably improved, evolved, or reached perfection during the past decade. The latter is an impossible goal anyway, although advertising would have you believe that as long as you are connected to everyone around you at any given time, you can achieve communication nirvana. I cannot understand that there is so much to say to anyone that one must be connected at all times to another person, be that person a spouse, a child, a friend, a colleague, or a parent.

I don’t know when silence and reflection became de-prioritized in our society. I only know that I prioritize them more than ever before, in a society that cannot be quiet. It does not even attempt to be silent at times, except during very rare moments of global silence in response to a death or a historical event. I go to work and am told I must network and communicate more with my colleagues. I thought that is what I have been doing, when necessary, all these years. I don’t need to be told to do more of it. I don’t wish to burden my co-workers with every single thought that emanates from my brain. Because what happens is that words become devoid of meaning, messages become empty, and people become weary of the ennui associated with ‘communication’. Besides self-promotion, I detect a note of desperation in the constant cry for attention on the part of administrators and other well-meaning souls who simply cannot accept that not everything they say is worth listening to in a work context. I don’t need to be told repeatedly, in the form of well-meaning emails, seminars, leadership courses, lectures and whatnot, how to do my job or how to communicate with my colleagues. I try to apply the golden rule in my dealings with others: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think that’s a good rule, and I wish it was practiced more. Respect for others, for their thoughts and words and for what they value, is at a premium in my workplace. The tough cookies who run the show run roughshod over the poor souls who sit in the meetings where they are expected to participate, yet when they do, they are told that what they say is not relevant or important; or when they talk, they are constantly interrupted by those who wish to take over the show. If this is communication, spare me.

There are ways of communicating with others that work, and ways of communicating that guarantee a failure to connect with those one wishes to communicate with. The ‘emperor’s new clothes’ philosophy does not work for me. I don’t want ‘same shit, new wrapping’ foisted upon me in a communication context. I want to choose how, when and where I wish to communicate. I am not available 24/7 to anyone, not even to my spouse, and certainly not to my job. My home life is valuable to my development as a kind and good human being. My home is my haven, my port in a storm, a place where I find peace and quiet. I don’t want it invaded by constant chatter in any form—empty gossip, superficial conversation, TV blabbing, mindless radio chatter, and all the rest that passes for communication. Because now we come to the crux of the matter, at least for me. What is communication? Wikipedia defines it thusly: communication ‘(from Latin commūnicāre, meaning "to share" ) is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or a group of living creatures’. For me, the emphasis is on meaningful. There is far too much meaningless communication in our world. And if we fill our heads with too much of it, there is no room for reflection, peace, quiet, or creativity. And if those disappear, real communication dies. 

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