Saturday, February 13, 2010

Communication is key

   My wife informed me it was time to get a new cell phone, after my old phone dialed someone in Italy and I had 15-minute conversation with them. It was nice to communicate with someone half a world away.
   Communication is key to everyone and everything on the planet. With all the new high-tech, whiz-bang gizmos out there you might think it would be easier to communicate or interact with your fellow man. But after thinking about it for a moment I have come to the conclusion that is simply not the case.
    Some might say we are communicating too much. There have been laws enacted to stop the use of cell phones while driving, and other laws have been written to stop texting in certain places.
   Technology offers many great things, but I think communication is a casualty. If we communicated better, and face to face, Dr. Phil might not be the superstar he has become. Everything on his show revolves around one thing — communication.
   Sure, our phones make it possible to communicate, but do they help us communicate better, or are cell phones actually limiting our communication?
   We communicate everyday in many ways, some verbal, others not, but as our interaction becomes less, so does the civility of our society.
   I let an 18 wheeler pull in front of me on a congested stretch of highway the other day. He was having a hard time getting over because no one would let him in, so his blinker just blinked. He was trying to communicate but no one was listening. I flashed my headlights at the trucker, and he guided his truck into my lane, quickly blinking his tail lights as a thank you. Communication sans cell phone.
   Of course, the guy behind me communicated his displeasure with my driving kindness and let me know by honking his horn.
   Go to any restaurant and look around the dining room. Not too long ago you would probably see people at the various tables holding a conversation with each other. Now, you may see one person texting, one talking on the phone, and maybe another surfing on a laptop. Are they communicating? Not with each other.
   In that same restaurant, those same diners probably communicate more with the waiter than with each other. They gave their order. Where the patrons place their glass communicates a desire for more beverage, where the plates gets moved signals they are finished with their meal and even where the bill is placed with a credit card for payment signals the diners are ready to leave.
   Some studies have shown 90 percent of our communication with others is nonverbal. And, no, texting does not count.
   Those with pets will undoubtedly say they can communicate with their pets without saying a word. A certain body movement, action or facial expression is enough to communicate your thoughts to your pet.
   Pets don’t generally have phones, so they rely on communication skills, and quite often behavior problems are a result of our lack of communication with our pets. Our pets “read” us by what we are saying, without saying a word.
   Don’t believe me? Try these experiments with your dog: Have your dog sit and stay, walk a few feet away, turn around and look at him or her. Next smile widely and hold your arms out like your excited — but don’t say a word. I’m sure your dog will at least wag his or her tail. Next, if your dog is doing something you don’t approve of, fold your arms, or point at him or her and give a scowl. Your dog will probably respond with something that humans would say looks like guilt, but in reality it’s just the dog reading what you are saying and trying to placate you.
   In agility and disc dog, people use body language to tell their dogs what they want done. Want your dog to go left? motion with your arm and turn left. Want your dog to go right? Do the same to the right. Want your dog to stop? Stop. Many times at dog sport competitions, I see handlers “pull” their dogs off an obstacle early then get upset because the dog didn’t make the necessary contacts. In reality, the dog was communicating better than the person, because he or she was reading what the person was doing and thereby doing  his or her part.
   One last thing to think about regarding communication — the number one cause for loneliness is a lack of communication, or interaction, with other people. Loneliness becomes amplified during the holiday season, as thoughts of  the perfect setup makes people realize they really aren’t communicating, or have no one to communicate with.
   Not long ago, we received a letter at the paper about a woman whose only wish for Christmas was to have someone to talk too for a few hours.
   Seeing the smile broaden across her face and watching her countenance brighten as we sat, having a cup of tea and talking — communicating — about nothing in particular was all the communication I needed. The newest phone with all the apps in the world couldn’t match that.

Blake Ovard hopes the world will slow down and stop trying to do everything right now. He communicates with his dogs and sometimes with inanimate objects with a few strange looks and can be reached via e-mail at

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