two students talking on cell phones

Text Less, Talk More: The Art Of Communication

Communication in the digital age is an important skill to master. Learn more, including a few suggested tips.

By Fargo Police Department Cultural Liaison Officer Vincent Kempf

William H. Whyte once said,

The great enemy of communication is the illusion of it.

Today with the internet, cell phones, and other electronic devices; communication should be at its zenith. However, I find that we need to improve our communications skills more now than possibly ever before.

In my position as the Cultural Liaison Officer for the Fargo Police Department, I encounter communication difficulties almost every single day. I am often attempting to converse with people that either do not speak English, or are in the process of learning English. I use interpreters to assist me. Currently I am studying the Nepali language to improve my ability to understand and to be understood.

As a police officer I have asked witnesses to write official statements detailing what they had seen, heard, or experienced. Sometimes after reading these statements, I was more confused regarding what had happened than before I read the statements. And, these were witnesses for whom English was their first language!

We all can do something to improve our ability to communicate. One way would be to text less and talk more.  With texting you are sending a statement. It is not communication until the statement is read and understood.  With texting you do not have a person’s facial expressions or body language to help interpret the message.  You do not hear the tone of voice.  Sarcasm may be very difficult to catch in a text, compared with a conversation in person or over the phone. People often add emoticons or capital letters (screaming) to replace facial expressions or tone of voice. It is not difficult for a sad friend to text a smiling emoticon to hide his or her sadness.

no cell phones allowed graphicTexts are meant to convey a short message usually. “Omw” will let someone know you are “on my way” to a predetermined destination. Texting can be an effective way to communicate, but first you must have a rapport with the other person. You know them and can glean their meaning because of your familiarity with them.  You are familiar with how they think, talk, and feel about issues. It would be much more difficult to develop a friendship if texting is they only way you had to get to know the person.

When speaking with someone do you actively listen, or just wait for your turn to talk? If you do not listen to a person speaking, it would not be fair for you to expect them to take your words seriously. Learning to truly listen is the first crucial step in communicating.

Julian Treasure, an expert in sound and communication, compiled a list of seven deadly sins of speaking. The list includes gossiping, judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, exaggeration (lying), and confusing facts with opinions (dogmatism). These seven things would tend to make a listener into someone who is waiting to talk. All seven make the listener want to tune you out. Dogmatism is especially prevalent today. You cannot discuss any significant issue if no one wants to hear what you have to say.

Take the time to talk with people. Have conversations with people who are very different from yourself.  Listen to what others have to say, even if you do not agree with them. Explain your position with facts in a positive way.  Practicing your communication skills and improving your abilities will enable you to do better in school, to get a job, and to build better relationships.

Novelist Margaret Millar once said,

Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness.