Thinking back on it, my career in communications was inevitable. I always scored off-the-charts for verbal skills (if you know me personally, this shouldn’t surprise you!) and from an early age my mom encouraged me to take responsibility and speak up for myself.
Today, I appreciate and apply these lessons (thanks, Mom!) every day as a professional communicator. However, I’m beginning to wonder if kids today are learning these same basic skills. Or has technology completely undermined their ability to truly and personally communicate?
The Weather Forecast
I once had a school project to report on the weather forecast from the nightly news. I don’t want to date myself, but this was well before the Internet existed. If you missed the nightly news, you were basically clueless about the forecast until the next morning. Oh, the horror!
Unfortunately, I didn’t watch the weather forecast that night, and when it came time to do my homework assignment, my parents wouldn’t budge. They figured it was my responsibility, so I had better figure out the fix. Enter Stormy Rottman – the 9News weathercaster at the time. I hauled out the phone book, looked up the phone number for 9News, gave a call from our old-school wall phone, and asked to speak with Stormy. I was quickly patched through and sweet Stormy happily gave me the forecast one more time before heading home for the evening. Phew! Problem solving and person-to-person communication at its best!
The Dying Art of Simply Communicating
They say things have changed for the better and many things are certainly more convenient today than they were back then. I can look up the weather forecast anytime online or via my Weather.com app. I make appointments online, and text messages have replaced many of my phone calls.
But here’s the thing. As a modern-day communicator, I’m afraid some of my basic communication skills – like simply picking up the phone and giving Stormy Rottman a call – are becoming a lost art. I spend more time on email, Slack, Skype and text than I do talking on the phone, not to mention face-to-face, with people. Are kids today learning how to simply talk to someone – anyone – without the distraction of a phone in their hand, a digital screen flashing in the background, or an ear bud buzzing?
I spent last weekend with a group of close friends, and one asked for advice on starting the conversation with another friend who regularly checks her phone for emails and texts during lunch dates. This common conundrum got me thinking…
I vow to get “back to basics” and find the time to connect more in-person than online. I also promise to be more present and, when I can, connect with people face-to-face rather than through technology. I’ll model this for my kids, and encourage them to find answers and make connections themselves rather than making it too easy for them. Now that I’m a mom myself, I can imagine how hard it was for my own mom to push me out of my comfort zone to speak up for myself, but I’m so grateful she did!