Communications Technology: This Changes Nothing

Hyper communication is not necessarily effective communication. Sure, we increasingly have access to almost any person or piece of information at any time. But too often we just talk or Tweet past each other, sticking to scripts without really listening. If nothing else, the modern age is a boon for irony.

The ongoing strife in Washington brings this to mind, naturally. But this is an everyday problem, for just about all the frustrations you and I are likely to have are related to communications, and technology has done little to free us from the drudgery of ourselves.

Each new technical marvel sets a thousand blogs aflutter, but technology can also fool us into thinking we’re autonomous when in fact we’re dependent on relationships, and healthy, productive relationships depend on clear, reliable communication. Same as it ever was.

In a variation of the Tolstoy formulation that every happy family is the same while every unhappy one is unhappy in its own way, there are numerous ways to be an ineffective communicator, none of which changes with technology.

For instance, you might have an exacting nature that seeks genuine understanding by over-explaining and asking too many questions. Unfortunately, it can come across as a loquacity, grandstanding, and pedantry. … Ouch.

Where is technology to help us see ourselves through another pair of eyes, processed through a filter not our own? Now that might do our communication skills some good … though perhaps not our self-image. From Robert Burns’ “To A Louse”: O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us

This is not to say we necessarily must change to accommodate others, but if we don’t want to be louse-y communicators we at least need to see ourselves more completely and truthfully. We need to acknowledge our own filters. Why? Here’s another quote, this time from Anais Nin: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” Technology can help companies gather feedback and guide consumer decisions (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, etc.), but can it help us see ourselves more clearly?


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