Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on March 30th, 2009

Is Society Really Listening?

Are these conversations happening to you more often every day? “Did you get that ‘tweet’ I sent out?” or “I emailed you a link to a tagged photo of us all texting on our phones at the same time at the bar saturday night... hold on, I’m getting a call.” Multi-tasking communication is becoming a highly-skilled trend in our current cycle of technology. However, not everyone who is multi-tasking in their communications habits is effective at it. In fact, we love to communicate so much, We stopped doing it in its simplest form: Human-to-human dialogue. Our society cannot go a day without using some hand-held gadget or device that increases our communication output at the most inappropriate moments. The argument is thus triggered to whether our overall increased output is effecting our quality in personal communications.

As every grade school teacher will attest, we failed to master the art of listening in personal interactions before we moved on to more tech-savvy and immediate implementations of communication. In a recent article in Ad Age, Marc Brownstein discusses these lapses of basic communication in the form of a pseudo-epidemic that he refers to as “PDD”, or Perpetually Distracted Disorder. He argues that technology is contributing to a decline in the human dialogue, and small screen devices are the main culprit. You could be in the middle of a conversation when the person you are talking to gets a text and responds to it, reassuring you that they are “still listening”. Just to test it out, next time this happens to you, ask them a question or make a comment that they wouldn’t otherwise go without responding to. If they don’t respond or look at you like they haven’t the foggiest, you have just witnessed PDD. This happens everywhere, to most anyone: In the office, at the dinner table, and, unfortunately, every time you are in a hurry and trying to check-out.

In the current state of our economy, can we afford to employ, or even be, bad participants in the human dialogue? It is so vital for people to be constantly checking their small screens, instead of looking into the eyes of the person trying to talk to them? If you are not listening, then you are not helping solve problems, creating solutions, participating in the office’s collaboration station, or being a good friend and companion. If you find yourself a victim of someone’s PPD, try one of the following: Stop talking when the person you are talking with pulls out their phone to text. Wait for them to finish and then decide whether it is worth finishing. If you are the culprit, consider basic communication etiquette and the overall ramifications of your communicate switch. You can ruin a client relationship in a matter of moments, but you may not have noticed it because Johnny Maven was still tweeting you a clue.

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