What we have here is failure to communicate

Strother Martin

By Jim Whitt

I looked up communication in a dictionary and found these definitions:
• To convey information about; make known; impart.
• To reveal clearly; manifest.
• To have an interchange, as of ideas.
• To express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood.

I then asked myself a question (an internal interchange): In this wondrous world of high technology how good a job are we doing of communicating? This is how I answered myself…

Let’s start with email. It’s easy to write. It’s easy to send. It’s easy to respond to. It’s easy to delete. It’s easy to misinterpret. It conveys no voice inflection or body language. There’s probably no way to measure the damage this form of miscommunication has caused. Email is the great tsunami of modern communication. I’m positive that millions of relationships and business deals have drowned in its wake. I found another definition for communicate in the dictionary that describes email: To spread (a virus, for example) to others.

Then there’s that modern marvel of communication — the cell phone. We have been conditioned to respond like Pavlov’s Dogs when we hear a cell phone ring. Have you ever been in the waiting area at the airport when someone’s phone rings? Everyone’s hands go for their phones ― it looks like the shootout at OK Corral. I know people who could be at the bedside of someone taking their last breath and if their cell phones rang, they would say, “Hang on a minute. I need to take this call.” Why can’t they just let their voice mail take a message? Of course, voice mail adds a whole new dimension to communication: “Just leave your name and number and I’ll get right back to you.” That’s code for, “You’ll never hear from me again.”

Cell phone rudeness knows no bounds. I’ve been in the middle of delivering a speech and a cell phone rings. This is disruptive enough but does the person get up and leave the room to talk? No, they just start talking — out loud. I mean really loud. I’ve been tempted to take their phones and see how far I could throw them. I suspect many people have wanted to do this. We could add a new Olympic event — the cell phone throw.

You don’t even have to talk on your cell phone. You can just text someone. But if you have a phone in your hand why are you texting? Why don’t you just call? Oh, because someone threw your phone into the next county? Why, that was me!

Speech is a dying form of communication. Kids can be sitting next to each other but won’t talk to each other — they just text back and forth. Texting has spawned a new form of shorthand language. See you later has simply become c u ltr.

Texting has proven to be useful in some respects. When you can’t or don’t want to take a call you simply text a programmed response, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now.” I can’t talk now because I’m busy talking to myself. Which takes me back to the question, “In this wondrous world of high technology just how good a job are we doing of communicating?” The short answer would be Strother Martin’s infamous line from Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

c u ltr.

This article was originally published April 27, 2005. You’ll find more at www.PurposeUnlimited.com. You may reprint this article in your own print or electronic newsletter, but please include the following: “Reprinted from the Purpose Unlimited E-Letter: For a free subscription, go to www.PurposeUnlimited.com. Copyright © 2015 Jim Whitt Purpose Unlimited.

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