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We always are talking AT one another

Psychologist Jean Piaget says that when two very young children talk to each other, they do so in monologue. Put another way, they each respond to the fact that the other child has spoken, but not to what the other child has actually said.

Could it be that we have never actually grown up?

Take a look at the communication patterns in most families and you might feel this way.

Children decry the fact that their parents just don’t “understand” what they are saying, thinking, or feeling.  Parents think that their children have no respect for their experience or wisdom.  Spouses spend more time talking at each other than with each other.  The central issue behind every family intervention I am asked to engage in revolves, ultimately, around the issue of communication.  People don’t feel they are being heard while seldom hearing what the other family member(s) are saying themselves.

It’s not just families, though.  It’s just about every other aspect of society – politics, religion, you name it.  It seems like we have never grown up!

The truth be told, however, the problem is not that we haven’t grown up.  The problem is that we are, as a culture, regressing.  If you want to know who is to blame, I will tell you.  It is BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.  In 1775 he become Postmaster General.  Before he brought his efficiency to the country, most communication was done face-to-face, in person, mano-e-mano.

Next came the telephone, then radio, television, internet, twitter, facebook, texting, and all the other social media outlets.

Most things are now communicated in sound-bites or posts, 500 characters per post (or less).

Some folks have learn how to twist the new media in such a fashion that they make a fortune and gain a following letting other people hang in the wind.  The talk radio personalities are especially adept at this sort of thing.  Listen as they parse – word by word, phrase by phrase – a special by a political rival.  Then actually listen without the filters.  It will be two different things completely.

Or watch a facebook debate as it gets into full swing.  Notice how seldom people seem to actually be reading WITH UNDERSTANDING what another person is saying.  Interpersonal communication isn’t happening.  Instead, we are only seeing what Piaget noticed in his research.  We are talking AT one another, not WITH one another.

Mostly monologue – seldom dialogue.

How can we recover genuine communication?

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