Can we talk? Honestly, do we have the ability to effectively communicate? I have heard many claims that “political correctness” is killing our culture, but I think there is at least one other miscreant taking slashes at us. We no longer know how to talk to each other. I don’t mean the words we use, but the actual process of having a conversation. Using social media, texting, instant messaging, gifs, and emoji’s, has destroyed our ability to converse. I expect that there have always been problems with people communicating, even in pleasant enjoyable conversations. Just thinking of what you want to say in response to someone causes you to miss at least part of what they are saying, even when you’re trying to just listen.
At one time I thought written correspondence was great, because you could at least address each topic individually, at length, and with all the time you needed to think about it. But as voice calls have died out and instant messaging has exploded, the fracturing of conversation has only gotten worse. Without the inflection of spoken words, or the ability to use italics or underling to stress specific words or phrases of importance, we have been reduced to depending on the use of capital letters for emphasis. But even that has proven a failure because it is seen as a raised voice, not just emphasis, or worse yet, a yelling tirade when someone forgoes lower case letters altogether.
But all of those are problems that have exploded on the scene with technology, the fundamentals of effective communication have apparently always been difficult to practice. I do not know what is taught in schools now, but I do remember being taught the principles of active listening when I was in school: Listen, don’t speak. Look at the person speaking in the eyes. Repeat what they said back to them, and then ask questions for clarification.
I was taught this, I know that it honestly is effective and keeps communication flowing, but I still find myself running down rabbit tails in my mind because I am thinking about what I want to say in response. I sometimes interrupt the speaker and completely derail the conversation. And unfortunately, now this is so common that people never seem to actually have a complete conversation and when they realize how far off topic they have gone, they can’t remember the topic they started with.
Add these problems to the continual moving target of political correctness, the fairly new mentality of perpetual victimhood, and attributing motives to others based on your own worldview, and poof, effective communication is almost impossible.
However, the deepest problem I have seen is when trying to communicate with someone you don’t necessarily agree with, their very definition and expectation of a “conversation” can make it impossible. And they may not even understand that what they expect is not a conversation, but validation. Then when you don’t immediately agree with and validate their point of view, they don’t try to convince you, they don’t restate their case or even ask why you don’t agree. Instead, at best, they assume you didn’t really listen or don’t understand why they are right. Or at worst they assume that you have some kind of prejudice and therefore are not worthy of your own value, much less their time or effort to make their case. They never even consider that instant agreement and validation is not a conversation, it’s assisted self-gratification. But let’s be clear about this, people aren’t stupid, they know that going down that road will shut down any effective communication, and most of the time, that is exactly why they do it.
If a person honestly wants to have a real conversation about something even remotely controversial, they will come to the arena of ideas armed with facts if possible, or at least compelling objective evidence. For example, many people claim that there is a strong correlation between gun ownership in an area, and crime rates. They may not go as far as to flat out claim that higher gun ownership causes higher crime, but they believe the correlation is at least enough evidence to be compelling. And that would absolutely be compelling, if that were the actual correlation. But the truth is that by all reported, recorded, and measurable statics, there is an inverse correlation. Does this mean that more guns causes less crime? Not necessarily, but it is very compelling evidence, if not absolute proof, that their claim is false. This is just one of many examples I could use, but there is no need to continue with them, because trying to simply state facts to someone that is “triggered” is pointless.
So how can we have effective conversations? If we can’t use verifiable facts to make our points and to try to show someone that we don’t hate them, we just want to start from a point of actual fact, and work from there, how do we have conversations that are meaningful?