The Lost Art of Conversation

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On CBS News Sunday Morning, there was a fantastic piece on the lost art of conversation.

The segment featured a litany of Baby Boomers crying over the proliferation of texting, social media and technology. Examples of people looking down at their phones while they fell off of subway platforms and into public fountains made me LOL.

Uh oh…am I laughing at myself?

Two Girls on the PhoneMillennials, according to MIT professor and best-selling author Sherry Turkle, are more interested in texting than conversation. According to Turkle, conversation is uncomfortable for two reasons:

  1. Conversation happens in real time
  2. Unlike texting, in conversation you can’t always control what you are going to say.

CBS reports that 18-24 year olds send, on average, over 3200 texts per month.

Where do you line up, with that statistic?

A picture came on my TV:  Standing side by side, at the beach, the family was shown looking down at their cell phones. In this clever painting, Mom and Dad were going digital – right there with big sis and little brother – while the real world was simply ignored.

The gorgeous day at the beach couldn’t compete with target=”_blank”facebook, I guess.

Let’s face facts: Disconnection is crossing generational boundaries. The tired old rant about “those dern Millennials!” was not really working for me, once again. Poor communication is really about your communication – not your date of birth.

With more ways than ever to connect, we are becoming more and more disconnected in real life.

The Lost Art of Conversation: What’s so messy about real life, and real time?

Real life, and real time, is messy. And really, really necessary.

Texting and twitter make certain things easier.  Electronic conversation is still conversation… right?

Quick, bursty communication is clean and quick. But when technology’s the only thing, then something big is missing.

The connection between your URL and IRL (in real life) is the key. For tech-savvy Millennials, relying on text messaging as the only means of communication is crippling. If you want to get a job, get a raise, get a date or get funding, you’ve got to get face to face. You’ve got to be able to create a persuasive conversation, without a keyboard.

Texting is not evil. Social media is not the tool of the devil. However, anything without balance is (wait for it…) unbalanced. Constant texting is not a good thing – it’s like having pizza for every meal, or only reading one author (Unless, of course, that author is me. Because my themes are universal. Would you like more kool aid?)

The point is: take time to connect your IRL to your URL. People want to know more about you, beyond just your latest tweet or status update. Being real means getting your story in real time. Being real means being authentic: in the moment, in the now.

Video tools, like Skype and Webex, are great ways to leverage technology to create connections. But there’s still no substitute for getting face to face.

DM me if you disagree with that last statement.

I’ll take whatever conversation I can get.

Follow Chris Westfall on twitter @westfallonline.  His book is called The NEW Elevator Pitch, the definitive guide to communication in the digital age – whether you tweet it or tell it, here’s how to get your story straight.

Main photo courtesy of Tom Saint.  Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.

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