Communication in its most simplistic form is the sharing of an idea in a way that allows the other party/parties to understand the message the way in which it was intended. It's a simple concept, but not an easy one to attain, especially in today's microwave society.
For many years, communication was thought an important skill to teach each generation and it yielded incredible results. It allowed people of diverse cultures and world views to discuss things of great importance allowing consensus to be reached. It promoted grace and manners in the event that agreement was not found in order for citizens to live peaceably and agree to disagree. Not always, but mostly in polite society.
But today, there is no interest in learning to communicate effectively because there are a few new definitions of communication that have been adopted. Communication has become:
A battle cry for free speech:
Most people (even Christians) have adopted the belief that communication is a right to say whatever you want to say without thought to how it may come across or the results it might yield. Americans, especially, claim free speech as a way to justify being lazy so they don't have to craft their message to fit their audience in order to affect change. Christians have used this practice almost as a badge of honor in order to say they have fulfilled the Great Commission. They claim you know you are being effective for the Lord if you share your faith and others are offended.
Free speech was never intended to be a justification for being rude. The Bible says, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;” Ephesisans 4:2. Nor was it a right guaranteed in all forms as we are not free to yell fire in a crowded theater. Lastly, the Lord never intended us to BE offensive when we shared our faith. Paul said, “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” -1 Corinthians 9:19-22. It says that the message may be offensive to those who are not willing to hear it, but we are not to be rude.
A sales pitch:
Communication skills are often sought after, but only for a few specific reasons. The first of which is in order to perfect a sales pitch. It's been tried, but has failed miserably when pushing your wares on unsuspecting Facebook friends, so many do seek out a better way in which to share their business ideas in order to make more money. This is admirable, but there is much more to communication and more serious consequences to humanity than a missed sales opportunity. Friendships are lost, marriages fail, careers are stalled, businesses are ruined, and wars are waged when communication is done badly.
Speech making and debate are good skills to foster and many parents look for resources either in schools or books in order to give their children an edge. However, while your child may never be called upon to give a speech in the course of their lives, they will always be called upon to communicate something to someone on a daily basis!
A political rant:
A final way in which most people these days see communication (or rather the LACK of effective communication) as important is as it relates to a political rant. Facebook is filled with people offending by the way in which a political issue has been worded or presented. The importance of communication here is usually reserved for how NOT to communicate rather than a reason to learn to do so more effectively.
How did we get to this point? I have several ideas about what has changed communication over the last 10-20 years.
We've become a nameless, faceless society:
I believe there has been a change in how effective communication is valued because communication itself has become nameless and faceless. It's far too easy to email, text, or share a comment on an internet article or Facebook post without having to face your victim when you insult him. Ever since the Me Generation where we were encouraged to be bold and assert ourselves, we have valued the boldness of people, but gave less credence to grace in how that message was transmitted. It's much easier to do that now that we are no longer required to look a person in the eyes when we deliver our bold dislike for something. Even the meek may express their distaste without fear of retribution because all it takes is a quick delete, unfollow or unfriend if the heat gets to close to home.
Some people L@@K for offense and others CREATE it:
I've seen some on social media who look long and hard for things they may somehow twist in order to take offense so that they may express their dismay with all the vinegar they can muster. Still others look for opportunities to sow discord among their peers. These are usually the people who proclaim discrimination or cry bully while using the same tactics to point that out in others.
A complete lack of personal responsibility:
The trend these days is to point out unfairness in others, but refuse to accept any personal responsibility for any of the misunderstanding. It's always the other person's fault and responsibility. It's Joe's responsibility to be nice to me, but I am just being who I am in speaking any way I want to. It's Mary's fault for arguing with me, but I will not acknowledge my own contribution for a misunderstanding that escalated into a verbal brawl.
What can we do to bring it back:
I suggest we go back to placing more importance on the way in which we communicate and the need for education about effective communication as well as the commitment to bringing it about by starting with ourselves and our children. To that end, Art of Eloquence has a TON of free resources and sample lessons (at the bottom of most of our product pages) as well as various studies for sale. Check out all we have to offer and please feel free to email me if you have any questions.
Make 2017 the year we bring back civility to our discourse and grace back to our relationships!