Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Can you hear me now?

The other day I was on the phone with a young adult. The conversation was punctuated by long periods of silence followed by "um...well..." and then a response to something I had said or had asked. When I queried my conversation partner, I discovered she was IM (instant messaging) a couple of friends while talking to me. (I had already suspected this).

There was a time when similar behavior would have been considered rude.

My wife remembers trying to speak with someone who was constantly scanning the crowd and saying "hi" to others, or interrupting Terri to engage in a snippet of conversation with someone else. She was quite put out with the man's total inability to give any attention to what she was saying. "I doubt if he heard a word I said to him," she groused.

Some (who are twenty to thirty years my junior) may object: Hey, we're the first generation who grew up with cell-phones and computers. We know how to multi-task!

Fair enough. There may be some validity to the objection. But why is it when you are multi-tasking so professionally, you still seem to miss the nuances in our conversation, the tone of voice, the core thought? Why do I have to repeat myself? Oh yes, sometimes you can tell me what I said, but you can't seem to interpret my meaning!

Perhaps you can do two or three tasks at once, and even do them well. I would like to suggest though: conversation is not something to be multi-tasked. Building a relationship is a different sort of thing than writing a report or downloading software. And perhaps you would strenuously object to this rhetorical question--but, still, reflect on it: Wouldn't you agree someone who refuses to maintain eye contact with you, who is staring into a computer screen and typing (while you are talking), and who answers in mono-syllables gives the impression he is uninterested in what you are saying? Don't you feel more appreciated and more engaged when a person who is listening to you looks you in the eye, leans forward, and seems to block out all other visual and audio stimulus?

The stereo-typical husband of the 50s and 60s would have loved the term "multi-tasking", especially as he ate breakfast, read his newspaper, and pretended to listen to his wife as she attempted to have conversation with him! He could have made a lot of mileage out of that phrase!

And he still wouldn't have heard a word she had said.

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