Is communication dead? Or has it just changed so much it’s unrecognisable?

What has social media done to our ability to communicate? Is it causing more problems than good?

Humans are and always will be social creatures. We don’t like to be alone and in order to feel a sense of purpose we have an innate need to belong. To be part of a family, club, group, organisation or loyalty program is immensely important to us.

Marketers, entrepreneurs and business people understand this need. Why do you think you have all those membership cards in your wallet? Frequent flyers, frequent buyers, coffee cards, meal cards, membership programs, loyalty clubs… the list goes on.

With social media now being one of the largest methods of communicating we’re ‘friending’, ‘following’, ‘tagging’, ‘liking’ and ‘connecting’ in cyber space like there’s no tomorrow. But are we feeling more connected? Or are we just becoming even more disconnected?

Communication problems are the biggest relationship issues we have in the world. After all its a breakdown of communication that causes wars and other international conflicts. If the leaders of the World aren’t able to communicate well, then what hope do we have?

Actually it’s the small changes that you and I can bring that will make change in the world. Compassion, understanding and empathy are the cornerstones for good communication. Without these there are sure to be less connections, more misunderstandings and therefore even greater conflicts.

Why is it that we just aren’t communicating properly?

Often as children we are forced to hide our feelings, our emotions and our needs. From an early age we learn to be ‘polite’ and we’re often encouraged to say not exactly what we mean. How many times have you told your child “You can’t say that, honey. It’s not polite”? I know I have.

As parents we often negate our child’s feelings to suit our circumstances. When little Joe says “I’m feeling sick today” he may be given a response like “no you’re not, just go to school and you’ll feel better”.

Or what about when a child goes to try something new to eat and the parent reacts with; “oh you won’t like that”? Then they hurriedly attempt to shove something more appropriate in front of them.

Not only is the parent curbing the child’s sense of adventure, but they’re actually telling them how they’re going to feel about something before it’s even been experienced.

Although much of this dialogue is taking place as automatic responses, what are we doing to the future leaders of the world? No wonder there are so many conflicts going on. What are we teaching our children about their needs, wants and emotions?

Social Media is just making it worse!

With the onslaught of social media we have the ability to ‘virtually’ communicate and ‘connect’ whenever we want to. Instead of grabbing a coffee, popping over, picking up the phone, writing a letter or even an email we’re tweeting, posting, poking and pinning to stay in contact with our friends.

The importance of the number of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ has become so valuable to us that companies are being sold for billions of dollars just for the volume of their data base without ever even having sold a single item.

My two teenage step-sons are so addicted to social media that we’ve had to instigate phone – free times and zones in our house just to get them to talk to us more. Dinner and the kitchen are absolute no-no’s but you can still see their ears prick up every time their phone beeps in the adjoining room.

Do you prefer text to sex?

This is how bad it’s getting. Last week I read an article that documented a survey commissioned by Durex the condom makers. The results found that an incredibly concerning 13{b5271943e17dd97dcded82632e818dabbc62c3d3bd5fa50d83532f0f6a236ecb} of people had caught their partners checking Facebook or some other form of social media while they were having sex.

This really shocked me. How can this be? So even when these people are practicing the most intimate of connections with another human, they’re more interested in how their online ‘connections’ are stacking up rather than concentrating on the person they’re touching and feeling right in front of them.

Where to now?

So with the all the negative communication practices we’ve either learnt or had thrust upon us, how are we to save our intimate relationships from becoming victims of this anti-communication age? Are we simply destined to never experience real connection with another human being again?

Non – Violent Communication (NVC).

Yesterday I interviewed Shari-Elle from The Communication Group. Shari is a founding teacher of Non-Violent Communication in Australia and she trained with the master and creator of this practice himself, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg.

Marshall is the author of Non-Violent Communication – A Language of Life and is a communication Mega-Guru! He’s created a global initiative to change the way we communicate through his not-for-profit Centre for Non-Violent Communication.

Marshall travels all over the world to mediate in conflict situations and teaches the practice of Non-Violent Communication to local communities, national conferences, schools and government agencies.

Shari-Elle is a certified teacher of NVC and in Australia she is at the forefront of teaching it to young politians to enable them to communicate more effectively. After interviewing Shari I have an even better understanding of the benefits of using NVC’s simple processes.

I first read Non-Violent Communication years ago and although I loved it I didn’t really ‘get’ it. Perhaps I was too young, ego driven or self absorbed to understand the Power of this book. But reading it again more recently I now consider it to be the ‘communication bible’.

NVC teaches a simple 4 step process:

  1. You observe the actions that are affecting you.
  2. Then you acknowledge how you feel because of those observations.
  3. You pinpoint your needs, values or desires creating your feelings
  4. You make a direct request for action that will improve your situation.

When I started using these simple strategies with my young daughter who “never listens to me” I could see an immediate shift in the way she heard me.

Instead of feeling commanded to, (which she just doesn’t respond to) all of a sudden we were understanding each other. I wasn’t begging her five times to get dressed in the morning, she was just going and doing it. WOW what a difference!

Personally I find step 3 to be the most challenging. You really need to dig deep sometimes to discover the needs, values or desires behind what is causing your feelings. Many of us have been so conditioned to ignore our needs that communicating them becomes almost impossible.

Somewhere along the way communicating seems to have become a series of manipulative ploys to enable us to get our own way. We’ve lost the ability to express how we’re feeling truthfully and values have been pushed aside to make way for impulsive wants. Even asking for a specific action from someone to enrich our lives has become foreign to us.

My husband is now reading Non-Violent Communication and we are making it our priority to communicate using NVC. When using the NVC techniques we both feel more listened to, better understood and closer to each other.

Communicating with these strategies teaches you that you don’t need to yell and scream to get your point across. In fact when you allow yourself to be open, vulnerable and honest with your partner the empathy increases and along with it the appreciation for their feelings and their side of the story.

My secret tip!

If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re a good communicator then do just one thing… STOP TALKING!

If you stop talking for a minute then you’ll start to hear better. Then once you start listening, you’ll really be able to start understanding. Once you start understanding then you’ll be in a better place to empathise, and this leads to the ability to find a solution that’s a win/win for both of you.

Lets Make Love!