In the book, The Healing Brain, James J. Lynch writes, From the quiet comforting of a dying person, to the cuddling of an infant, in single, widowed, divorced, or married people, in neurotic, schizophrenic, or normal people, one factor unites us all---dialogue. Dialogue is the essential element of all social interactions. In its most general meaning, dialogue consists of reciprocal communication between two or more living creatures. It involves the sharing of thoughts, physical sensations, ideas, ideals, hopes, and feelings. In total, dialogue involves a reciprocal sharing of any and all life experiences.
According to Joelle Renstrom (in FastCompany.com), there is another health hazard associated with “second-hand screen time.” She writes, “Like cigarettes, phones are addictive and [they] have become wildly popular before researchers learned about their addictive properties and health hazards.” Today, the average American adult touches his/her screen 2,500 times a day. Studies of preschool kids have found that “screen exposure can impede the formation of nerve systems involved in language development, expression, and reading skills.”
You may think that texting, emailing and sending pictures are engaging in dialogue or communicating with others, when actually, you are tapping on a small screen (device) and nothing more. You are not sending genuine information about your emotions, ideas, behaviors or expressing yourself with any amount of accuracy…skills that are required for actual dialogue or communication to take place.
The skills involved in communicating/sending accurate, complete and genuine information about yourself are far more complex than finger-tapping on a screen. Here are a few of those sending skills.
Conceptualizing makes use of your ability to think, fantasize, imagine, create, and to do all these things with clarity.
Thinking is often “sub-vocalization” of words. If you wish to enhance your thinking, expand your vocabulary. Words are the “imprint” of ideas. They are the tangible, meaningful expression of thought. Often, you don’t really have an idea, nor can it be fully conceived, until you “put it into words.” It is often as important to put your thoughts into words, FOR YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING, as it is for you to send your thoughts to someone else. Thinking out loud, talking to yourself, or recording your “ramblings” and listening to them, all improve your thinking ability.
Fantasizing is often regarded as useless. Not true! Albert Einstein almost failed the third grade, because he spent so much time staring out the window and fantasizing. What is important is the nature of your fantasy. Clarity of conceptualizing is enhanced by following the fantasies to questions such as: “What if...?” or “How might that...?” or “What would happen if...?”
Imagining is bringing into pictures, your fantasies. Images help clarify your thoughts, focus your fantasies, and program your central nervous system. Using images regularly, saves time, and often solves problems.
Creativity is the ability to take two or more separate ideas, thoughts, fantasies, or images, and synthesize them into a totally new idea, thought, fantasy, or image. Synthesis is the key to any newly created event. Allowing your thinking, fantasies, and images to “move” or freely “wander” in your mental processing, is the key to synthesizing. Its like the action of random molecules joining to form a compound that has none of the properties of any participating molecule.
Regular use of these abilities which we all have, to one degree or another, will enhance the clarity of your conceptualizing and make the source of your communication ability richer, more precise, and powerful.
Words are used more often than any other encoding. Again, the value of a large, useable vocabulary becomes obvious. Proper use and selection of words isn’t just grammar or syntax. It means the ability to choose words which send your meaningful message as clearly as possible and “gets that meaning over to others”!
Most people believe they understand and use words well. As an experiment, ask any group of teachers (people) what the word “check” means. The word “face” has a total of twenty-nine different meanings in our English language. Probably no one you asked would come up with the “dictionary meaning.” After all, a word is merely a symbol. Its meaning, as well as its value as an encoding tool, is limited by what it means to the listener. As any “wordsmith” knows, “A word means different things to different people.” When you tap words on a screen, you have no idea whether the receiver is even watching her/his screen, let alone interpreting your words in any manner you intended.
Some advice when using words. Keep the sentences short and the words simple. Write or speak to “express your thoughts” and not to “impress” your listeners. To convey your meaning is far more important than to impress your listener(s) with your brilliance. Directness and simplicity are marks of a good communicator.
Pictures (visuals) are a second method for encoding your communications. Examples of these include: photographs, graphs, samples, charts, models, etc. These reach the brain through the sense of sight. Pictures are able to show the relationship of an intricate, complicated, or mass of data. They may assist the use of words to make the meaning doubly powerful or clear. They can speak to our esthetic sense , something words cannot always do. You remember the old saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Contemporary teachers tend to express their ideas through the use of films, charts, or models. Despite the usefulness of pictures, they are rarely effective when used alone. They are, as the terms imply, “visual aids” to word communication.
Communicating behaviors are those non-verbal expressions of our ideas. What you do (your body-language) is a powerful means of communicating to others. It was the earliest form of communication from you as a child. When what you do communicates something different than what you say, others always “hear” what you do and understand/respond accordingly.
Then there is the language of touch. Consider Helen Keller who was born deaf and blind…the only way one could communicate with her was with patterns of touch. Touch is non-verbal and uses no words whatsoever. You can never touch another by tapping on a small screen. Unfortunately, in our culture, all touch between adults, has taken on sexual overtones or meanings. But touch is an exceptionally powerful communication tool. A slap, arms around the shoulder, a hug, a punch, all communicate feelings so much clearer than words. The need to be touched, to stimulate the receptors of the skin, is a powerful and recurring one. If nothing else, touch keeps the peripheral nervous system in good working order. Physical affection (sexually expressed or not) is essential to our sense of well-being. Therefore, its value in communicating is exceptional.
Smiling, sneering, laughing, or other facial expressions, enriches our communication. Ritualistic behavior has meaning as well (e.g. shaking hands, hugging, etc.). Refusing to act or behave has a powerful meaning. The “silent treatment” or ignoring another, sends a very powerful (usually threatening) message.
As addiction to “screen time” intensifies, please remember the above skills are unique to the human being. Practice them as much as you can and you become more fully human and effective in your communication sending abilities.