Editorial: Have We Lost The Ability To Communicate?

  Have we lost the ability to properly communicate with each other? I’ve been seriously wondering about that after observing in the last several weeks a lot of interactions that could have been handled much better with a bit more thought involved.

  It seems many of us often respond to a situation in a defensive manner as opposed to trying to pause, listen and respond in a way that is factual but also meets the goal of expressing things from a perspective of understanding rather than an attack.

  In recent weeks  I’ve witnessed several examples of this. The first was a TSA officer barking out orders as opposed to explaining instructions to people passing through the security area of the Philadelphia Airport.

  The tone of voice sets the tone of attitude and while airport security is a serious matter to be maintained, if you come off as a drill sergeant and call out people for moving too fast or slow or not completely understanding what was just barked out, you are causing more of a problem.

  Likewise, when you are in an elected leadership role, you have the obligation to try and defuse a situation when dealing with residents or a township agency such as the police. If something is wrong, bring some calm and see how it can best be addressed as opposed to challenging someone’s work despite how right you feel you are. Look at the bigger picture.

  There are times when unexpected things happen and a worker, say a waitress, is told that the diner they are working at is closing early for whatever reason. The customers who came in at 3 p.m. – thinking the place advertised to be open until 8 p.m. – have no idea they need to provide their order in record time and finish up quickly.

  A sign put up on the door window after they were seated isn’t going to help. Being pushy without a simple friendly conversation and explanation comes off as rude and awkward. It also doesn’t help your chances of getting a nice tip.

  In that situation, a brief partial explanation could have turned things around so that the customer is more understanding instead of insulted.

  A calmer tone would have allowed those at the airport to better understand the instructions and not felt like they were 5 year olds being scolded. No one likes being told what to do but by and large, most adults do understand the need for safety and will comply with calmly worded instructions.

  That community leader knew there was a change needed to be made with regulations and could have brought that change forward and not micro-managed the wrong people in his desire to be right. They were doing their job.

  Each of those situations could have been handled better with a change of tone in expressing content.

  I’ve often heard that it is more important to be kind than right. What are we really trying to accomplish by immediately verbally attacking the person we are serving or working with? Maybe our point is just but we’ve just trampled over someone and caused some damage that is not easily repaired.

  These are just three examples but it seems to be happening all the time in all walks of life. We seem to be taking out our stresses quite easily. Road rage incidents are up and it seems easier to raise our voices instead of have a conversation.

  We can state our point but do we need to yell it out and name call?

  One place where we do seem to communicate well is at convenience stores where I see a lot of people holding doors for others, thanking them for doing so, reciprocating by holding a door for them and talking to people in line as we wait. If only we could communicate that way in other situations. Bottom line is, we can do better.

Bob Vosseller
Assistant News Editor